Accessibility links

Breaking News

ElBaradei Arrives In Cairo Amid Renewed Protests


Egyptian reform campaigner and opposition figure Mohamed ElBaradei has arrived in Cairo to join the protests against President Hosni Mubarak's 30-year rule, as antigovernment activists clashed with police for a third day.

ElBaradei -- a Nobel Peace Prize winner who recently headed the UN's nuclear watchdog -- flew in from Vienna. He told reporters before boarding the plane that he wasn’t returning to lead the protests but to help manage change politically, if Egyptians ask him to.

"I will be there with the people, particularly with the young people who have led, organized, managed the peaceful demonstrations on the street," he said. "And I have to give them as much support, political support, spiritual, moral support, whatever I can do. I will be with them. They are my people and I have to be there and I would like to see a new Egypt."

In protests today, security forces shot dead a Bedouin in the north of Egypt's Sinai region bringing the death toll to five on the third day of demonstrations against rising food prices and lack of democratic reforms.

Police in Suez fired rubber bullets and tear gas at hundreds of demonstrators calling for an end to Mubarak's 30-year-old rule.

In Ismailia, hundreds of protesters clashed with police, who used tear gas.

The April 6 Youth Movement, which has been one of the main organizers of the protests, used Twitter to call for mass demonstrations after Friday's Muslim prayers.

At Least 1,000 Detained

Security officials say at least 1,000 protesters have been detained in Egypt since street demonstrations began on January 25. Egypt's prosecutor-general said today that 40 of those demonstrators have been formally charged with trying to "overthrow the regime."

Most of the arrests were made overnight as the authorities cracked down on demonstrators in Cairo and Suez after banning all public protests across the country -- a ban that many pro-democracy activists continue to defy.

Protest organizers say they are breaking up their street actions into more separate rallies with fewer people in order to avoid violent police crackdowns. The strong-arm tactics of police are also fueling public anger -- leading to more protest rallies in other Egyptian towns and cities.

That momentum is testing the ability of the police to muzzle public discontent over poverty, government corruption, and human rights abuses in Egypt. The authorities are increasingly trying to cut off the cell phone system and shut down access to new social-media networks like Twitter and Facebook -- tools used by protesters to quickly regroup crowds that have been dispersed by police.

Muslim Brotherhood Signs On

In a sign that the protests are building momentum, the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood -- the main opposition group that has so far refrained from officially endorsing the demonstrations -- has called on its members to turn out on the streets in large numbers and join a protest set for January 28.

That could be a critical day for the demonstrations, which were inspired by a revolt in Tunisia earlier this month.

What role can Mohamed ElBaradei play in Egypt?
Members of Mubarak's ruling National Democratic Party said they were holding talks in Cairo today "to evaluate the situation."

Muslim Brotherhood spokesman Essam el-Arian said today that Egyptians had "accumulated" anger as a result of years of political oppression under Mubarak's regime, and that the protests would continue "until the regime responds to the real demands" of the people.

Growing Call For Reforms

Meanwhile, the wave of demonstrations across the Arab world inspired by Tunisia's revolt could be seen in Yemen today, as thousands of protesters gathered in at least four different locations of the capital, Sanaa, to call for the resignation of Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh.

The changing political landscape in the Arab world has caught the attention of business and government leaders at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.

Arab League Secretary-General Amr Moussa, an Egyptian who served as Mubarak's Foreign Minister for 10 years, told the forum on January 26 that a wave of unrest across the Arab world since the Tunisian uprising highlighted the need for democratic reforms.

"The Arab citizen is angry, is frustrated. That is the point," Moussa said. "So, the name of the game is reform."

Former Saudi Arabian intelligence chief Prince Turki al-Faisal told the Davos gathering the same day that "even Egyptian officials" are now admitting that their society is in a moment of "flux."

"The situation in Egypt is changing and whether they can catch up, as it were, as leaders, to what the populous is aiming for, that is still something to see," Faisal said.

U.S. Says Egypt Has 'Opportunity'

In Washington, the United States has taken a markedly sharper tone toward the Mubarak regime -- its key Arab ally in the Middle East. U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on January 26 urged Mubarak to listen to the country's citizens and implement democratic reforms.

"We believe strongly that the Egyptian government has an important opportunity at this moment in time to implement political, economic and social reforms to respond to the legitimate needs and interests of the Egyptian people," she said.

Critically, Clinton aligned Washington on the side of the protesters -- calling on the authorities to refrain from blocking the mobile-phone and social-media networks that have helped protest organizers.

Today, State Department spokesman Philip Crowley repeated Washington's call for Egyptian authorities to allow the protests to take place without violence and to not block social media websites.

He said Clinton's statement - that "reform must be on the agenda" -- was not the United States telling Mubarak what to do, but rather Washington's "best advice."

"We would like to see political reform in Egypt -- as we've made clear for a number of years -- and a broader opportunity for people to participate in the political process in Egypt."

The Committee to Protect Journalists -- a nongovernmental international media-rights watchdog -- says local and international media also are being targeted by police in their crackdowns against protesters.

written by Ron Synovitz, with news agency material
  • 16x9 Image


    RFE/RL journalists report the news in 27 languages in 23 countries where a free press is banned by the government or not fully established. We provide what many people cannot get locally: uncensored news, responsible discussion, and open debate.