01/31/2011, 00.00
EGYPT

General strike called in Cairo as opposition demands caretaker government

Mubarak promises reforms, but protesters demand he leave. A "respectable" withdrawal suggested by new Vice-President and Defence Minister. Obama calls for an "orderly transition", Israel says it "is in the interest of the West and the Middle East" to maintain stability in Egypt.

Cairo (AsiaNews / Agencies) - Police returned to the streets in Egypt today for the first time since Friday, while a general strike was called. On the seventh day of protests, the goal is to force President Hosni Mubarak to leave. From his part the Rais, in a statement read on television, announced today that he has charged the new Prime Minister Ahmad Shafiq to promote democracy through dialogue with the opposition. However the opposition, including the Muslim Brotherhood, has delegated Mohamed ElBaradei the task of negotiating for a "transitional government". The former head of the UN nuclear energy agency, seems to have succeeded in unifying protesters. "No turning back," he said yesterday to the crowd. "A new era has begun for Egypt – he added.

An "orderly transition to a government that meets the expectations of the Egyptians" was also called for by U.S. President Barack Obama, who spoke with some foreign leaders over the phone on the subject. At the same Obama and some European leaders addressed the Israeli government. As reported today in Haaretz, Tel Aviv says it is "best interests of the West" and "throughout the Middle East to maintain the stability of the regime in Egypt." "It is therefore necessary to curb public criticism against President Mubarak."

If Israel’s concern is not only shared by the West- the king of Jordan and Libyan President phoned Mubarak - the fate of the Egyptian president seems quite obscure. According to the Sunday Times, the Egyptian opposition is negotiating for a transition, not with the president, but with the army which, according to protesters, "must choose" between Egypt and the Rais. The same source claims that the vice president, General Omar Suleiman, former intelligence chief and defense minister, Mohammed Tantawi, asked Mubarak to resign, presenting him with a "respectable" solution.

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