Official Warnings Get Threatening

As Egypt’s uprising entered its 17th day on Thursday, bolstered by labor strikes and worker protests across the country, a senior official in President Hosni Mubarak’s embattled government was quoted as saying the army would “intervene to control the country” if it fell into chaos.

The warning by Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit seemed to add a further ominous tone to earlier comments by the newly appointed Vice President Omar Suleiman who said the alternatives facing tens of thousands of demonstrators demanding Mubarak’s ouster were dialogue with the authorities or “a coup.”

Aboul Gheit told Al Arabiya television: “We have to preserve the Constitution, even if it is amended.”

“If chaos occurs, the armed forces will intervene to control the country, a step which would lead to a very dangerous situation,” he was quoted as saying on the broadcaster’s Web site, a day after he dismissed calls by Egyptian protesters and Vice President Joe Biden to scrap the country’s emergency laws, which allow the authorities to detain people without charge.

“We have 17,000 prisoners loose in the streets out of jails that have been destroyed,” Aboul Gheit said in an interview on PBS. “How can you ask me to sort of disband that emergency law while I’m in difficulty?”

Up until now, the military has pledged not to use force against the protesters who have occupied Cairo’s central Tahrir Square for almost two weeks and whose tactics have broadened to the establishment of a fresh encampment outside the Egyptian Parliament. But it has also deployed tanks and reinforcements across the city, setting up a narrow access point to Tahrir Square that forces would-be protesters into single file after they stand in long lines to enter.

Some of the protesters say they have been inspired by Wael Ghonim, a Google executive who has emerged as a prominent voice in a revolt galvanized in part by social networking sites. On Thursday, a Twitter feed in his name in English declared: “I promise every Egyptian that I will go back to my normal life & not be involved in any politics once Egyptians fulfill their dreams.”

But, in an interview on CNN, he was also quoted as saying he was “ready to die” for the opposition’s cause.

“And I’m telling this to Omar Suleiman,” he said. “He’s going to watch this. You’re not going to stop us. Kidnap me, kidnap all my colleagues. Put us in jail. Kill us. Do whatever you want to do. We are getting back our country. You guys have been ruining this country for 30 years. Enough. Enough. Enough.”

The apparently hardening official line — and the stubborn resistance of the protesters — coincided with a surge of strikes and worker protests affecting post offices, textile factories and even the government’s flagship newspaper.

Complete article via New York Times


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