miércoles, 2 de febrero de 2011

Egypt unrest: Tense stand-off in Cairo's Tahrir square

Screen grab of scuffles on Tahrir Square, Cairo, 2 February 2011 Numerous injuries were reported as the two sides clashes in Cairo's Tahrir Square
There is a tense stand-off in the Egyptian capital's main square, after fights broke out between supporters and opponents of beleaguered President Hosni Mubarak.
Thousands of the president's supporters had surged into Cairo's Tahrir Square, dismantling barricades set up by anti-Mubarak groups.
It followed a call by the army for protesters to return home after nine days of anti-government demonstrations. Mr Mubarak has pledged he will not stand for re-election in September.
On Tuesday, hundreds of thousands had protested across the country against Mr Mubarak, the culmination of more than a week of demonstrations that have left about 300 people dead according to UN estimates.
Counter-protests Up to 2,000 anti-Mubarak demonstrators saw out a cold night in Tahrir Square, the epicentre of the protests, saying the president's pledge was insufficient and chanting: "We will not leave!". They want to see him deposed and punished.
But on Wednesday, thousands took to Cairo's streets to support him.
We're in the middle of a very fluid situation - this is entirely dangerous, entirely provocative. Thousands of pro-Mubarak forces are now surging into Tahrir Square.
There was a cordon set up by the anti-Mubarak protesters to try and hold them back. The army were in the middle. They didn't take sides.
And basically there were too many of them. So they are now surging forward.
We've just seen one man being attacked - being kicked and punched and hit with a stick. And we've also seen protesters pulling down signs that are against President Mubarak.
There's a lot of anger on the streets at the moment, a lot of argument, fists are flying. And who knows where this will end.
"You guys have made your point clear, let the man (Mubarak) take care of you until his time is up. Mubarak wants stability and we want stability as well," said Mohamed Shafik.
"Let Egyptians go home and look after their families," the 51-year-old pharmacist told Reuters news agency.
Television footage showed opposing groups facing off and chanting slogans at each other in Tahrir Square, and as scuffles broke out, troops intervened to prevent a major escalation.
In its earlier statement, the army - which is widely seen as an arbiter in the crisis - called for demonstrators to return to their homes.
"Your message has arrived, your demands became known... you are capable of bringing normal life to Egypt," said a spokesman in a message broadcast on state television.
In Tuesday night's speech, Mr Mubarak had promised to leave at the next polls, and pledged constitutional reform, saying he would devote his remaining time in power to ensuring a peaceful transition to his successor.
"This is my country. This is where I lived, I fought and defended its land, sovereignty and interests, and I will die on its soil," he said.
Pro-government supporters shout slogans on top of a tank near Tahrir Square, Cairo, 2 February 2011
US President Barack Obama responded by saying an orderly transition "must begin now", while Turkey's PM Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Mr Mubarak should take a "different step".
Meanwhile, internet service was reportedly returning to the country, having been cut off for days by the government. State television also reported an easing of a nationwide curfew - with restricted hours from 1700-0700 (1500-0500GMT) rather than 1500-0800.
State media reported that parliament had been suspended until the results of last year's contested elections were revised. It added that the parliamentary speaker had called for Mr Mubarak's proposed constitutional reforms to be implemented within two-and-a-half months.
President Obama: "An orderly transition must be meaningful, it must be peaceful and it must begin now"
"I will tell you very simply that there is an unprecedented popular movement that rejects the presence of the president on a scope that has not been seen before, that is calling for the will of the people to be imposed," he said.
If Mr Mubarak does not step down, demonstrators have planned to march on the presidential palace.
Some demonstrators said they did not trust their 82-year-old leader to enact the necessary constitutional changes.
"The speech is useless and only inflames our anger," one protester, Shadi Morkos, told Reuters. "We will continue to protest."
However, other Egyptians said they believed that Mr Mubarak's offer could be a suitable compromise.
Omneya Okasha, a resident from Alexandria, told the BBC she believed that sudden change could lead to "more drastic consequences".
"I find this a stable solution something that suits both sides - a win-win situation."