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Egypt

Crowds return to Tahrir Square as Mubarak meets government

Reuters

Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak met his new government for the first time as demonstrators against his rule gathered again on Cairo’s Tahrir Square Saturday. A self-styled group of “wise men” has met ministers to propose that Mubarak delegate his powers to his newly appointed Vice-President Omar Suleiman.

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Some demonstrators spent the night on Tahrir Square and thousands returned during the day, although the numbers were down on Friday’s massive turnout for the a “day of

Dossier: Revolution in Egypt

departure” which failed to drive Mubarak out.

Prime Minister Ahmed Shafiq, the ministers of petroleum, trade, finance and social solidarity met Mubarak Saturday, along with the head of the central bank, according to the state-run Mena news agency.

Cairo’s stock exchange will not reopen Monday, as previously announced, Mena announced Saturday. No date has been set for reopening the bourse and it is unlikely to take place before banks and other finance institutions have resumed business.

A group of business leaders, writers and legal experts, calling themselves the “wise men”, are reported to have held two meetings with Suleiman to propose a phasing out of Mubarak’s rule which would allow him to save face.

According to their plan, Suleiman, who heads the secret services, would take over Mubarak’s functions but the president would remain in power until an election in September as he has sworn to do.

The proposals also call for the dissolution of parliament, which is monopolised by the ruling party, and the end of emergency laws that give security forces almost-unlimited powers.

The government would negotiate with the demonstrators, who are said to be considering the plan.

In other developments:

  • US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton warned the region’s rulers of “a perfect storm of powerful trends” which mean that “the status quo is not sustainable” at a meeting of the Middle East diplomatic Quartet in Munich which was overshadowed by the Egyptian events;
  • Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood denied that the current movement is an Islamic revolution, accusing Mubarak of “manipulating public opinion” by presenting the protests as being led by their movement;
  • Police have arrested the bureau chief and a journalist of Al Jazeera television, the Qatar-baed channel said Saturday;
  • Finance Minister Samir Radwan apologised to journalists or foreigners who has been subject to "harsh treatment" in an interview with US TV channel CNN;
  • A pipeline supplying gas to Jordan was blown up, leading to supplies to Israel being cut off, but the blast may have been a leak, rather than sabotage as officials earlier claimed.
     

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