News / Africa

Egypt Military Calls for End to Strikes

Public transportation workers protest in demand of salary raises in front of the national TV building, right, in Cairo, Egypt, February 14, 2011
Public transportation workers protest in demand of salary raises in front of the national TV building, right, in Cairo, Egypt, February 14, 2011

Egypt's new military rulers have urged an end to a series of crippling strikes that have broken out nationwide in the aftermath of the revolution, while signaling their intent to share power with civilians and amend the constitution by popular referendum.

The governing Supreme Military Council issued a communique Monday urging labor leaders to end the unrest, warning the strikes threaten any recovery in the country's battered economy after two weeks of paralyzing protests.

But the military stopped short of banning strikes and other protest actions, as it attempted to reassure opposition leaders it is genuinely committed to a democratic transition.

Among the more prominent groups involved in full or partial strikes across Egypt are police officers, textile workers, cement laborers, public bank and municipal employees, oil and gas workers and bus drivers. Workers cite a series of grievances, including corruption and the need for better pay.

The coalition of young activists who played a key role in organizing protests that led to President Hosni Mubarak's ouster issued its demands Monday for a transition to civilian rule. Members of the Revolutionary Youth Alliance set a 30-day deadline for a "civilian, technocratic cabinet" to replace the current caretaker government, appointed by Mr. Mubarak after the protests erupted January 25.

Other demands include a timeline for the end of the transitional period, the release of all political detainees and removing the country's decades-old emergency law.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton Monday also urged the Egyptian military to lift the emergency legislation. The decree, in place since 1981, suspends constitutional rights and curbs political activity outside the government.

Clinton expressed satisfaction with the role Egypt's military has played in the crisis. She said military leaders have shown a "seriousness of purpose" and that the steps taken thus far have been reassuring.

Earlier Monday, pro-democracy activist Wael Ghonim said Egypt's new military rulers told him a referendum will be held on a revised constitution within two months. Ghonim and blogger Amr Salama said they secured the commitment in talks with the military council that took control of Egypt from President Hosni Mubarak when he resigned last Friday.

Ghonim, a Google executive, and other cyber activists played a key role in organizing 18 days of nationwide anti-government protests that forced Mr. Mubarak to step down and hand power to the military after nearly 30 years in power.

Activists said the military council told them a newly appointed committee will finish drafting constitutional amendments in 10 days and seek public approval for the new charter in a national referendum within two months. Egypt's military rulers have not confirmed the timelines.

The military council suspended the constitution and dissolved parliament Sunday, meeting two key demands of pro-democracy protesters who viewed the charter and legislature as tools of Mr. Mubarak's authoritarian rule.

In a statement Sunday, Egypt's military rulers said they will govern for six months or until new presidential and parliamentary elections are held. The votes are scheduled for September.

Several hundred protesters appeared in Tahrir Square Monday, far fewer than the tens of thousands who gathered there during the past couple of weeks.

Some information for this report was provided by AP, AFP and Bloomberg.

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