Striking doctors flock to Tahrir Square. Gov’t warns of army intervention. New Minister of Culture resigns for health reasons.
CAIRO – Thousands of Egyptian workers went on strike Thursday to demand better compensation, adding pressure on a government staunchly resisting massive protests calling for the ouster of President Hosni Mubarak, CNN reports. Workers in various sectors launched strikes nationwide, including employees in the petroleum, railway and telecommunication industries. About 2,000 workers are on strike in the petroleum sector, said Hamdi Abdel-Aziz, a spokesman for the petroleum ministry.
Employees of the steel industry and the Suez Canal Port Authority also took to the streets to demand better salaries, state-run al-Ahram newspaper said. Protests sparked fears that the Suez Canal – a significant oil transport hub – would be shut down and send oil prices skyrocketing. But the finance minister said the nation will “do its utmost best” to ensure it remains open. In the port city of Alexandria, hundreds of street cleaners and administrative staff are on strike over what they say is a salary freeze, witnesses said. At least 1,000 engineers protested contracts and financial compensations, officials said. Meanwhile, protests in Egypt entered their 17th day Thursday as demonstrators continued their occupation of Cairo’s Tahrir Square to demand the ouster of Mubarak.
In a desperate attempt to end the revolt, foreign minister Ahmed Abul Gheit warned that the army would intervene if the protests escalated, hindustantimes reports.
On the other hand, BBC reports that striking doctors and a host of other workers have joined thousands of anti-government protesters in Egypt. Medics wearing white coats streamed into Cairo’s Tahrir Square alongside demonstrators who continue to call for President Hosni Mubarak to resign. A key Cairo hospital was reported to have been closed by strike action as an estimated 3,000 staff walked out.
Egypt’s newly Appointed Minister of Culture, Gaber Asfour, surprised Egyptians on Wednesday with his resignation from the new Government headed by Prime Minister Ahmed Shafiq, saying that he resigned for health reasons. Local newspapers hinted that friends of the Minister, such as critics, intellectuals and writers, blamed him for accepting the position at this phase.
WHITE HOUSE GIVES EGYPT A TO-DO LIST
President Barack Obama’s spokesman listed Wednesday specific steps the Egyptian government needs to take to satisfy the demands of protesters. White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs called for expanding the negotiations with opposition groups, lifting the state of emergency and making constitutional changes to bring about democratic elections. Egypt’s foreign minister said in a U.S. television interview that the Obama administration should back off from pushing President Hosni Mubarak to speed up the reform process.