Government Digs In, Issues Warnings As Protests Grow And Tensions Rise


Anti-government protests in the Egyptian capital Cairo have spread to the country’s parliament, with access blocked by demonstrators.

Soldiers are guarding the People’s Assembly building after a 16th consecutive day of protests.

They took place despite a warning by Vice-President Omar Suleiman that demonstrations must end.

There are reports of widespread industrial action, and of protests outside Cairo turning violent.

Nearby Tahrir Square remains the focal point of protests calling for an end to President Mubarak’s 30-year rule, with thousands of demonstrators present, some camping there overnight.

The Associated Press (AP) news agency reports that the capital also saw protests by state electricity workers and museum workers on Wednesday. However, Egypt’s most famous tourist attraction, the Pyramids of Giza, reopened to tourists.

Late on Tuesday night, Mr. Suleiman said the crisis must end, adding: “We don’t want to deal with Egyptian society with police tools.”

He warned that if dialogue with the protesters failed, the alternative was “that a coup happens, which would mean uncalculated and hasty steps, including lots of irrationalities.”

Opposition groups reacted angrily to his remarks. They fear the government is stalling for time and will fail to enact meaningful changes.

Abdul-Rahman Samir, a spokesman for a coalition of youth protest groups, accused Mr Suleiman of creating a “disastrous scenario”, according to the Associated Press news agency.

“He is threatening to impose martial law, which means everybody in the square will be smashed,” AP quoted Mr. Samir as saying. “But what would he do with the rest of 70 million Egyptians who will follow us afterward?”

The US has called on the Egyptian government to lift its 30-year state of emergency and to stop harassing journalists and activists.

Human Rights Watch (HRW) researchers say they have confirmed the deaths of 297 people since 28 January, based on a count from eight hospitals in the cities of Cairo, Alexandria and Suez.

Complete article via BBC

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