WORLD

Mubarak pushes ‘transition plan’ as protests enter third week

Egypt’s new cabinet announces 15 pc rise in salaries and pensions.

CAIRO – Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak has taken a step toward amending the country’s constitution, Egypt’s vice president said Tuesday, as a mass demonstration persisted into a third week, CNN reports.


Vice President Omar Sulei­man said on state-run TV that Mubarak signed a decree forming a committee that will oversee constitutional amendments that were discussed during recent talks with opposition members.


Egypt’s new cabinet has announced a 15% rise in salaries and pensions in an attempt to draw the sting from the public protests that have convulsed the country, threatening to drive Hosni Mubarak out of power after 30 years, The Guardian informs in its online edition. The increase for public sector workers followed earlier proposals for greater political freedom that have yet to convince pro-democracy protesters to leave Tahrir Square after two weeks of unrest that have claimed up to 300 lives. The new finance minister, Samir Radwan, says some 6.5bn Egyptian pounds (USD 960m) will be allocated to cover the increases, which will take effect in April for the 6 million people on the public payroll.


On the other hand, BBC reports that protesters in Cairo are continuing to call for Mr. Mubarak to leave office immediately. They are sceptical about any transition managed by the government.


Thousands of people still occupy Tahrir Square in central Cairo, though their lines have been gradually pushed back by the army in an effort to get traffic moving again. Mr. Suleiman said he had briefed Mr Mubarak on recent talks with the opposition. “The president also underlined the importance of continuing [the process] and moving from guidelines to a clear map with a definite timetable” for a “peaceful and organised” transfer of power, he said. Mr. Suleiman said one committee would be “responsible for implementing the required amendments of the constitution and ad-hoc necessary legislative amendments”.


FREED EGYPTIAN GOOGLE EXEC CHEERED BY THOUSANDS


Thousands of protesters crammed Egypt’s Tahrir Square on Tuesday, hoping to catch a glimpse of a Google Inc. executive whose detention by secret police has made him a figurehead for anti-government demonstrators, CBC news reported yesterday. Wael Ghonim’s arrival in the downtown Cairo square was met with loud cheers from the massive crowd, according to the CBC’s David Common.


CATHERINE ASHTON AIMS TO VISIT TAHRIR SQUARE


EU foreign policy head Catherine Ashton hopes to visit revolutionaries camped out in Tahrir Square in Egypt next week as well as Omar Suleiman, a career spy dubbed the “torturer-in-chief” by protesters, who was chosen by President Hosni Mubarak to oversee the transition process, EU Observer reports.
EUobserver has learnt that Mrs. Ashton is intending to travel to the country as an extension of a previously scheduled trip to post-revolutionary Tunisia on Monday (14 February).


FIVE MUBARAK CRONIES BECAME BILLIONAIRES


Five hated cronies of Hosni Mubarak each amassed fortunes topping $1 billion, according to military prosecutors preparing criminal cases again them in the latest government concession meant to defuse the 2-week-old Egyptian crisis, New York Post reports. Three of the former Cabinet ministers tried to flee the country over the weekend but were denied permission, Cairo airport sources told Al-Masry Al-Youm, Egypt’s largest independent newspaper. The paper said investigators were probing the hidden wealth of Mubarak’s allies, which ranged from the $3 billion of party insider Ahmed Ezz to the $1.2 billion of former interior minister Habib Ibrahim El-Adly.

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