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Africa

Thousands defy curfew on 11th day of protests

media An anti-government protester celebrates after hearing a rumour that Mubarak … Reuters/Yannis Behrakis

Cairo’s Tahrir Square was still packed with demonstrators at nightfall on Friday. Tens of thousands of Egyptians are gathered in the square on the 11th straight day of protests. They assembled after Friday prayers and have been there for several hours, once again, ignoring a night-time curfew. Thousands rallied in Alexandria and other towns.

Thousands rallied in Alexandria and other towns.Defence Minister Mohammed Hussein Tantawi made an appearance in the square on Friday to appeal to protesters to end their protest, but with little effect. The head of the Arab League, the Egyptian Amr Mussa, also visited the square.

“Journalists were being targeted by both mobs and some security forces. After being detained, some were released in pro-Mubarak neighbourhoods and again set upon by thugs.”

Stewards and troops are carrying out identity checks at entrances to the square.

“The mood is very ‘the sky’s the limit’,” Mohamed Mohi Eddin, a sociology professor who is taking part in the demonstration, told RFI. “They are not willing to give up.”

There is less violence than there has been in the last two days.

“As of last night the confrontations have subsided and I think there are not going to be any more confrontations of that sort,” said Mohi Eddin.

Dossier: Revolution in Egypt

But the Al-Jazeera television channel reported that its Cairo offices have been attacked and burned.

“Journalists were being targeted by both mobs and some security forces,” says RFI’s Michel Arsenault, who has just returned from Cairo. “After being detained, some were released in pro-Mubarak neighbourhoods and again set upon by thugs.”

There are reports that four former assistant interior ministers have been detained pending investigations and the country’s chief prosecutor said Friday that former Trade Minister Rashid Mohammed Rashid has been banned from leaving Egypt and is under investigation for misusing public money.

European Union leaders on Friday demanded Egypt's transition start now in a joint statement. They condemned violence in the “strongest terms”, but Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi called for a transition "that brings more democracy without breaking with a president like Mubarak", whom he described as wise.

Meanwhile, the Muslim Brotherhood’s leader, Mohammed Badie has again said his organisation will hold talks on transition only once Mubarak has resigned.

The New York Times newspaper reports that the Obama administration has been discussing with Egyptian officials a plan for Mubarak to hand over power to a transitional government immediately.

A transitional government led by Vice-President Omar Suleiman and including a broad range of opposition groups, including the Muslim Brotherhood, has been proposed.  

"If he were to resign today then constitutionally the speaker of parliament resumes his place,” says historian Khaled Fahmy, at the American University in Cairo.

“But if this happens, the speaker cannot dissolve parliament and he cannot change the constitution. He has to wait for new elections to elect a new president. That’s the constitutional bind that Egypt finds itself in.”

A pro-Mubarak protest was held Friday in the Mohandeseen neighbourhood of Cairo, but only a few dozen people attended.

Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has called on the people of Egypt to rise up and create an Islamic state.

One million tourists have left Egypt since the beginning of the protests.

Geography
Located between Africa and the Middle East, Egypt is a transcontinental country covering an area of more than one million square kilometers. It's bordered by the Mediterranean Sea to the north, the Gaza Strip and Israel to the northeast, the Red Sea to the east, Sudan to the south and Libya to the west.

Demographics

  • Population: 79 million.
  • Population growth: 1.74 per cent.
  • Life expectancy: women, 73 years; men, 69.3 years.

Society

  • Languages: Arabic (official), English, French.
  • Religions: Islam (state), Coptic Christians.
  • Literacy: 66.4 per cent.
  • Development: ranked 101st out of 169 countries by the United Nations Development Programme in 2010.

Economy

  • Currency: Egyptian pound.
  • Main sectors: agriculture, tourism, petroleum exports, media.
  • Foreign aid: has received an average of 2.2 billion dollars per year from the US since 1979.
  • Growth: 5.3 per cent (2009).
  • Inflation: 18.3 per cent (2009).
  • GDP per capita: 2,007 euros (2010 estimate).

History

  • 1922: declaration of Egypt's independence from Britain.
  • 1953: declaration of the republic of Egypt. General Muhammad Neguib becomes the country's first president.
  • 1954: Gamal Abdel Nasser comes to power.
  • 1956: nationalisation of Suez Canal, prompting Britain, France and Israel to attack Egypt.
  • 1967: Six Day War. Israel takes control of Gaza Strip and Sinai Peninsula. State of emergency declared. Apart from 18 months between 1980 and 1981, the Emergency Law has remained in place ever since.
  • 1970: death of President Nasser. Anwar El Sadat takes office.
  • 1973: Egypt and Syria launch October War on Israel.
  • 1978: Camp David accords between Egypt, Israel and the US.
  • 1979: Egypt signs peace treaty with Israel, in exchange for Israeli withdrawal from Sinai.
  • 1981: President El Sadat assassinated. Vice President Hosni Mubarak takes over as president.
  • 2005: Mubarak elected for a fifth term.
  • 2010: parliamentary elections in which the opposition boycotts the second round and the ruling NDP party wins more than 80 per cent of seats.

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