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Egypt's army takes over till elections in 6 months

2011-02-14 13:25

CAIRO- Egypt's military leadership on Sunday suspended the constitution and dissolved the parliament dominated by the ruling party of former president Hosni Mubarak.

The Supreme Council of Egypt's armed forces on Sunday announced the suspension of the constitution and said it would "run the affairs of the country on a temporary basis for six months or until the end of parliamentary and presidential elections."

The council said in a communique that it will form a panel to amend the country's constitution before submitting the changes to a popular referendum.

It also announced the "dissolution of the lower and upper houses" of parliament formed after the elections in last November, when over 90 percent of the seats were garnered by the ruling National Democratic Party, a rare majority in any country's legislative body, and said it would continue to issue decrees during the transitional period.

Meanwhile, the caretaker government will remain in place for a six-month interim period until elections take place, and it reports to the military high command just like it had reported to President Mubarak before he stepped down.

The statement also confirmed the chairman of the supreme military council, Mubarak's Defence Minister Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi, is now de facto head of state and represents Egypt on the international stage.

"The head of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces will represent the council domestically and internationally," it said, stressing its commitment to international agreements.

Also on Sunday, caretaker Prime Minister Ahmed Shafiq said in a televised press conference that the main priority of his cabinet is to restore security in the country, after nearly three weeks of protests.

"The first priority of this government is to restore security and to facilitate daily life for its citizens," he said, adding "I guarantee that this cabinet will return rights to the people and fight the corruption."

Shafiq said on Sunday the Supreme Council of the armed forces is to determine the future and position of Mubarak-appointed Vice President Omar Suleiman, according to state news agency MENA.

Shafiq said that Suleiman could hold a key post in the coming period but the issue needs to be decided by the armed forces.

Protesters split over whether to go

In downtown Cairo's Tahrir Square, cars began moving across the roundabout for the first time since the massive demonstration broke out, while the protesters are split over whether to leave the square.

Some Egyptians were celebrating victory, while many already left the square. However, a large number refused to move until other demands are met.

On Sunday morning, soldiers cordoned off protestors who were remaining in Tahrir Square, the fulcrum of 19 days of nationwide demonstration, in order to facilitate the flow of traffic.

People who declined to leave the square have listed different reasons, including demands for salary raise, release of detained family members and dissolving the parliament.

"We demand the armed forces release all our sons that have been arrested in Tahrir," said a protestor.

However, others called on them to leave and give some time for the army to take steps.

"People should move out of the Tahrir and start going to work, enough with the complaints, we need to take our country forward. We took what we want enough," said Reda El Sedi, a young protestor.

Reports circulated that some minor clashes between the army forces and protestors erupted. However, many witnesses said they were among the people themselves, and added that the army has been trying to clean the area.

"They treated us with dignity," said Sedi.

A group of lower rank policemen gathered outside the Ministry of Interior on Sunday, demanding pay rises, allowances, equal treatment and public execution of former interior minister Habib al-Adly.

Warning shots were fired in the air, but no one was hurt.

The Egyptian police forces have been widely criticized for cracking down on dissidents, torture, corruption and bribery.

These police insisted that they were given orders to deal harshly with the demonstrators on Jan 28. Many said that their work was underestimated as some of them also died during the protests for the sake of Egypt.

The Egyptian Museum, home to priceless collections, announced on Sunday that several priceless artefacts were stolen during a break-in on Jan 28.

The missing pieces include "a gilded wood statue of the 18th Dynasty Pharaoh Tutankhamun being carried by a goddess," and parts of another gilded wood statue of the king, Minister of State for Antiquities Zahi Hawass said in a statement.

The investigation into the missing artifacts has already been launched, Hawass said.

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