Egyptian gov't takes more measures to restore normalcy

16:17, February 08, 2011      

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Egypt's embattled President Hosni Mubarak and his new cabinet, formed days after the outbreak of protests against his rule, took a series of measures in a bid to restore normalcy to ease the political crisis in the country.

The Egyptian government announced on Monday a 15-percent raise in monthly salaries and pensions for about 6 million public employees, in another concessive move in the face of two weeks of protests.

The new cabinet held its first full meeting on Monday under Prime Minister Ahmed Shafiq to coordinate the ministries' efforts in restoring order in Egypt.

Mubarak on Monday evening ordered to set up a committee to investigate riots that took place between anti-government protestors and pro-Mubarak Egyptians last Wednesday, which left 11 dead and nearly 900 injured, state media said.

The president also held meetings with leaders of legislative and executive entities to follow the recent developments of the crisis and discuss political and economic reforms.

The government has been making a string of concessions which are unimaginable before the protests. Mubarak appointed a new cabinet, replacing an unpopular interior minister in charge of police, appointed a new vice president, the first time in nearly 30 years, and later announced that he would not seek another term in September elections.

According to the official MENA news agency, the country's top prosecutor had imposed a travel ban on former interior minister Habib al-Adli and frozen his bank account. The former minister also faced accusations of graft and seizing public money, among others.

The top leadership of the ruling National Democratic Party was also replaced, including Gamal Mubarak, dispelling concerns of him succeeding his father.

The government also opened dialogue with opposition leaders and youth representatives. Vice President Omar Suleiman said that any proposals for reform were open for discussion and he has even agreed to talk to the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood, long shunned by Mubarak's government as its most bitter rival.

After talks with the opposition groups, the government on Monday issued a statement, saying that an agreement had been reached on "the formation of a committee, which will include the judiciary and a number of political figures, to study and propose constitutional amendments and required legislative amendments, before the first week of March."

But Mubarak's opponents said concessions made in the talks were not enough to halt the revolt against his 30-year rule. The Muslim Brotherhood said after the meeting that the government made little concessions though acknowledging that the talks were at a preliminary stage.

Nevertheless, the government's measures did in a degree help move the situation in the country, which has slumped to a standstill for nearly two weeks, and the message has been passed and reinforced by state TV programs, on which analysts and government officials assure the viewers that the government is addressing reforms and life is returning to normal.

On Sunday many businesses and banks reopened. The Egyptian state television said on Sunday that the authorities decided to reduce the curfew period by one hour starting from Monday evening. The curfew has been in effect since Jan. 28 in Cairo, Alexandria and Suez.

The Egyptian stock market, which stopped trading on Jan. 29, will resume work starting next Sunday.

But thousands of demonstrators continued their protests in central Cairo's Tahrir Square on Monday, insisting on the immediate stepping down of Mubarak, and the opposition movements have formed a unified leadership to speak for demonstrators in the coming period, according to the independent Al Masry Al Youm newspaper.

The coalition includes members of April 6 Movement, the Muslim Brotherhood's youth wing, Mohammed ElBaradei's support group, the Young Freedom and Justice Movement and the Democratic Front Party's youth wing.

The protesters have vowed to stay until Mubarak quits and hope to take their two-week campaign to the streets with more mass demonstrations on Tuesday and Friday.

One day after the Egyptian vice president met with opposition and agreed on certain procedures, U.S. President Barack Obama said he believed that there had been progress in Egypt.

Meanwhile, White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said on Monday that Washington "will be a partner" to an Egyptian government, but he warned any future Egyptian government against revoking previous treaties, including the country's crucial peace treaty with Israel.

"We would expect that that partner would uphold particularly the treaties and the obligations that the government of Egypt, and ultimately the people of Egypt, have entered into," he said.

Source: Xinhua

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