Protesters are still refusing to leave Cairo’s Tahrir Square, despite offers of concessions from Vice President Omar Suleiman.
CAIRO – As protesters maintained a human chain at Cairo’s Tahrir Square on Monday – giving no indication of budging until President Hosni Mubarak steps down – the country’s new Cabinet was set to have its first meeting, according to state-run TV, quoted by CNN. Meanwhile, as some signs of normalcy spread in shops and banks, the Egyptian finance minister said Monday that the country will auction as much as 15 billion Egyptian pounds (about USD 2.5 billion) in treasury bills. Samir Radwan also said the stock market could open on Wednesday. When asked why the country will hold the “imminent” auction during unrest, Radwan said he believes there is an international appetite for the bills because their monetary fundamentals are still strong.
And a Google executive who had been missing since January 28 could be released, according to a state media report. State-run Nile TV said Sunday that Prime Minister Ahmed Shafiq called the station and said Wael Ghonim has been located and would be released on Monday. There was no explanation on Ghonim’s whereabouts or condition.
The 14th day of protests comes after Egypt’s vice president, Omar Suleiman, met with representatives of key opposition groups Sunday and offered concessions – including some that, if enacted, could bring dramatic change to the country. Among the ideas agreed to by the two sides at the meeting, according to a report on state-run television, was a future end to the military emergency law that has been in place since President Hosni Mubarak came to power in 1981.
Prior to the protests, London-based Amnesty International accused Egyptian authorities of silencing critics in the runup to parliamentary elections last November and said Egyptians have faced arrest, detention, criminal charges and the threat of detention without charge or trial under the emergency law. The two sides also discussed steps to ensure free media and communication, and plans to form a series of committees that would oversee changes aimed at bringing about a representative government.
The opposition leaders who met with Suleiman do not represent all the demonstrators who have held mass protests over the past two weeks. One of the groups represented in the meeting was the Muslim Brotherhood – a group that, days ago, had said it would not negotiate until Mubarak left office. Members of the liberal parties Wafd and Ahrarhave also engaged in talks with the newly appointed Suleiman.
After the meeting, Suleiman sat down with six young people who, according to state-run TV, were representing the “January 25” movement, named after the date the protests began. But in Tahrir Square, some protesters slammed the idea that anyone representing them would meet with Suleiman. “This is an insult to people like us, activists. Who are they to speak on behalf of the revolution?” asked Gigi Ibrahim.
Some opposition figures also questioned the government’s sincerity in Sunday’s meeting, saying the talks and suggestions of possible agreement might be tricks intended to end the demonstrations with Mubarak still in power and security forces situated to prevent them from restarting.
U.S. President Barack Obama said Sunday that Egypt can have an orderly transition and a representative government. He also downplayed the prospect of the Muslim Brotherhood – which has voiced opposition to the United States – ascending to power in Egypt once Mubarak leaves office. “They don’t have majority support in Egypt, but they are well organized,” Obama told Fox News’ Bill O’Reilly. “(But) there are a whole bunch of secular folks in Egypt, there are a whole bunch of educators and civil society in Egypt that want to come to the fore as well.”