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Protesters Leave Cairo's Tahrir Square

14.02.2011 09:46

Thousands of protesters have left Cairo's Tahrir square after the country's new military rulers suspended the constitution and dissolved parliament.

In a statement on state TV on February 13, the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces said it would stay in power for six months, or until elections.

Egypt's current parliament is dominated by supporters of President Hosni Mubarak, who was ousted on February 11 after 18 days of mass protests.

Opposition figure Ayman Nour, who challenged Mubarak for the presidency in 2005, said the steps taken by the country's new military leadership should satisfy protesters.

Nour told Reuters after the military leadership announced the new moves that "it is a victory for the revolution."

Earlier in the day, Prime Minister Ahmed Shafiq told reporters that the caretaker government's No. 1 priority was "to restore security and to facilitate daily life for its citizens."

His comments came after convening with his cabinet in their first meeting since Mubarak resigned after 18 straight days of massive antigovernment protests.

Soldiers Scuffle With Protesters

Soldiers wearing red berets formed lines around the protesters on February 13 to push them into a corner. They were using minimal force, trying to persuade the demonstrators to leave.

But it appears the soldiers acted too fast. Some of the protesters began scuffling with them after the sight of members of the hated police appeared to infuriate some of the crowd.

Several thousand new protesters arrived on the square to reinforce the demonstrators and managed to push the soldiers back.

Some protesters have organized a so-called Council of Trustees to defend the revolution and maintain pressure on the military. But many people in Cairo say they want normal life to resume.

Army Takes Control

One man who protested against Mubarak's regime said Egyptians should now give the military a chance by trusting it to help rebuild the country.

"Our demand was the fall of the regime, and that's been met. We all had one goal, to live in freedom and thank God we were able to do so," he said.

"The people here have other demands, demands that are impossible. God created the world in seven days, but they want everything in one day and that's wrong."

The military has confirmed it will honor all Egypt's international obligations. U.S. President Barack Obama welcomed the announcement.

The new administration said it's investigating accusations against some of Mubarak's former top ministers. Attempts are also under way to reclaim some of the money controlled by members of his regime.

Back To Normal

On Cairo's streets, crowds were still celebrating Mubarak's removal early on February 13. But many shops reopened on February 13 and business owners and traders said they hope for a quick resumption of normal life after weeks of unrest brought many businesses to a standstill.

With police -- despised under Mubarak for enforcing his dictatorial rule -- still absent from the streets, troops still guard strategic buildings.

One factory owner said he was concerned about the security situation. "We tried [living without police] by assuming the role of police officers ourselves and wore ourselves out," he said.

"We can't go to work, take care of our homes and enforce general security at the same time. It is a very difficult thing to do, it's not possible."

But another man who owned a kiosk said he'd seen signs of a turnaround. "There has been some buying and selling, much better than before, when we had to close at a certain hour because of the curfew," he said.

Mubarak, who left Cairo on February 13, is believed to be at his residence in the resort of Sharm el-Sheikh. His future plans aren't clear.

As Egyptians wind down their celebrations amid their uncertain future, Mubarak's downfall continued to have ripple effects across the Arab world, with police breaking up antigovernment protests in Yemen and Algeria on February 12.



Copyright (c) 2011. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036.

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