Belfast Telegraph

Friday 1 August 2014

Chiefs of Egypt's ruling party quit

An anti-government protester pleads with a soldier not to remove opposition barricades (AP)
Egyptian soldiers search anti-government protesters in Cairo's Tahrir Square (AP)
Anti-Mubarak activists formed queues to be admitted to Tahrir Square in Cairo (AP)

The top leadership body of Egypt's ruling party has resigned, including the president's son, but the regime appeared to be digging in its heels.

It appeared to be calculating that it can ride out street demonstrations and keep President Hosni Mubarak in office.

The ruling party leaders who resigned included the country's most powerful political figures - and its most unpopular among many Egyptians.

The move may have been aimed at convincing protesters in the streets that the regime is sincere in implementing democratic reforms they demand. But state TV, announcing the resignations, still identified head of state Mubarak as president of the ruling party in a sign he would remain in authority.

Prime Minister Ahmed Shafiq said stability was returning to the country, appearing confident that a deal on future reforms can be reached with the multiple opposition movements to defuse protests without the 82-year-old Mubarak necessarily leaving power immediately.

Protesters have refused to end their mass rallies in the central Tahrir Square until Mubarak quits. Tens of thousands gathered there, waving flags and chanting a day after some 100,000 massed there in an intensified demonstration labelled "the day of departure," in hopes it would be the day Mubarak leaves.

Their unprecedented 12-day movement has entered a delicate new phase. Organisers fear that without the pressure of protesters on the street, Mubarak's regime will enact only cosmetic reforms and try to preserve its grip on power.

In the meantime, the government has sought to draw opposition parties and the youth groups involved in the protests into immediate negotiations on constitutional reforms so presidential elections can be held in September to replace Mubarak. Protest organisers, wary of a trap, have refused until Mubarak goes.

Meanwhile, the Egyptian government is denying that the newly named vice president was targeted in an assassination attempt.

A statement says a stray bullet from an exchange of fire between "criminal elements" struck the lead car in Vice President Omar Suleiman's motorcade as it moved through an area of disturbances on January 28. It said the vice president was not injured.

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