12.09am: It’s time to wrap up the blog for tonight – many thanks for reading.
Here’s a final summary of the day’s events:
• On another day of protests during which Tahrir Square resembled a city of tents, the government offered concessions to groups including the Muslim Brotherhood – but critics said the proposals did not go far enough.
• A new batch of WikiLeaks cables revealed that Omar Suleiman has long sought to demonise the Muslim Brotherhood in his contacts with a sceptical US.
• Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton and John Kerry reacted to developments. Obama said Egypt is “not going to go back to what it was”, Clinton called for the people’s “legitimate aspirations” to be met, and Kerry said he was encouraged that Mubarak had “engaged in a dialogue with the protesters”.
• Google employee Wael Ghuneim – who was arrested on 28 January – will be released on Monday afternoon. Al-Jazeera correspondent Ayman Mohyeldin spent seven hours in military custody today.
We’ll be back on Monday morning with more live coverage. In the meantime, visit our Egypt keyword page for all the latest news.
11.46pm: Here’s a round-up of today’s Guardian coverage:
• We lead with the government’s offer of a series of concessions during talks with opposition groups, and the opposition leaders’ response that Suleiman has not gone far enough in his proposals for greater political freedom and pledge of free elections.
• Chris McGreal reports from Tahrir Square, where Christians and Muslims linked hands in a common cause and suspicion of the US motives in backing Suleiman.
• Ian Black reports on the Muslim Brotherhood, which has evolved and expressed a readiness to work within a democratic framework.
• Jack Shenker speaks to Dina Omar, an Egyptian cardiologist who has been working at a frontline medical station in Tahrir Square.
• Ewen MacAskill assesses the “dithering” US policy, which has been changing “almost daily”.
• Salwa Ismail examines the concentration of wealth within Egypt and the impact of “sweeping privatisation policies”.
• And here’s the latest gallery of images from Tahrir Square.
10.34pm: Prominent blogger @Sandmonkey was in Tahrir Square today. Here’s a selection of his tweets:
I’ve been to Tahrir Square today. My prediction was correct. The March 8 model is taking over. It has become a tent city. #jan25
The people have a stage and a PA system set-up, there are stations for mobile charging, food vendors , people form all walks of life #jan25
The situation is completely safe now. People were coming all day today. I hear the mass held there was beautiful. #jan25
Today, a christian mass was held in Tahrir, two people got married, and a couple is spending their honeymoon there. Awesome. #jan25
This is what makes me proud of our revolution: It has brought our people together, it’s fearless yet peaceful, & very sophisticated. #jan25
The protesters are behaving with utter selflessness: people donating money, goods, medicine and time. Every1 looking out 4 each other #jan25
10.08pm: In an interview on Fox News, Barack Obama says he believes Egypt is “not going to go back to what it was”, and that the time for change is now.
Reuters reports that Obama said only Hosni Mubarak knows what he is going to do in the face of daily protests, but it is clear that Egyptians want free and fair elections.
Obama also said he believed the Muslim Brotherhood is only one faction in Egypt and that they do not have majority support. He added that they are well-organised and that there are some strains of their ideology that are anti-American.
The Guardian’s Ewen MacAskill says of the White House’s response to events in Egypt:
Flexibility can be advantageous in international relations, but there comes a time when it starts to look like dithering. So it is in the US, where the official position on the Egypt uprising has been changing almost daily.”
10.05pm: Hillary Clinton has called for a broad cross-section of Egyptian political forces to be included in talks with the government to make sure that people’s “legitimate aspirations” are met.
In a conversation with Egyptian Prime Minister Ahmed Shafik on Saturday night, Clinton “emphasised the need to ensure that the legitimate aspirations of the Egyptian people are met, and that a broad cross-section of political actors and civil society have to be a part of the Egyptian-led process,” the State Department said.
Clinton also stressed that incidents of harassment and detention of activists, journalists and other elements of civil society must stop, the brief statement said. It gave no other details of the conversation.
9.45pm: Wael Ghuneim will be freed tomorrow, according to the Egyptian telecoms tycoon Naguib Sawiris.
Ghuneim, a Google employee in Cairo, went missing on 28 January. Eyewitnesses said he was arrested by Egyptian security forces.
Reuters reports that Sawiris told a television channel he owns that he had asked for Ghuneim’s release during talks with Omar Suleiman today.
Sawiris said he had been promised Ghuneim would be released at 4pm local time (2pm GMT).
8.48pm: Salwa Ismail has written on Comment is Free about the concentration of Egypt’s national wealth in the hands of a few, and how the country has been governed “as a private estate”:
Mubarak presided over a process in which the national wealth passed into a few private hands while the majority of the population was impoverished, with 40% living below the poverty line of less than a day, rising rates of unemployment, and job opportunities for the young blocked.”
8.35pm: The army has been trying this evening to advance its line at the Egyptian Museum, and has detained three young people who would not retreat.
Omar Robert Hamilton has passed on this information:
This evening the army tried to move its post forward at the entrance to Midan Tahrir by the Egyptian museum. The young protestors on the square sat in front of the tanks to prevent the move in to the square and fighting broke out between the army and the young people. The army started firing but the young people would not retreat.
The army grabbed three of the young people and took them in to a detention centre in the Egyptian Museum.
At the moment there is a face off between the army and the young protesters at the museum entrance to the square. The protestors are chanting: ‘give us back our brothers’.
The army tells them if they retreat they will release the three.
But the protestors are refusing to yield ground to the army.
We have also noted that the checkpoints in the streets of Zamalek and Dokki are no longer controlled by neighbourhood watches, but are controlled directly by the army.
8.32pm: Al-Jazeera English says its correspondent Ayman Mohyeldin has been released after nearly seven hours in military custody.
8.07pm: John Kerry, the US Senate foreign relations committee chairman, says he is encouraged by recent developments.
Reuters has a summary of Kerry’s interview on NBC’s Meet the Press:
Kerry said Mubarak has “engaged in a dialogue with the protesters [and] he’s now promising to remove the emergency law, which is a major, major opening of the door to the democratic process – allowing people to organize, speak, meet at a cafe – I think that is a beginning.”
“The most important thing now is to guarantee the process is in place where there are free and fair elections, parties can organize, people can campaign.”
Mubarak should “make it clear what the timetable is, precisely what the process is,” Kerry said.
“If that happens, this could actually turn significantly to the good and to the promise of a better outcome.”
Kerry also dismissed the comments made yesterday by Frank Wisner that Mubarak should stay to help with the transition of power.
“Mr. Wisner’s comments just don’t reflect where the administration has been from day one, and that was not the message that he was asked to deliver or did deliver,” Kerry said.
Obama has been clear, Kerry said. “The president wants change, he wants it immediately, he wants it to be meaningful, and he wants it to be orderly.”
“Those are the terms that the president set out,” Kerry said.
7.50pm: Jack Shenker reports on the statements demanding change coming from youth groups within Tahrir Square:
A number of statements are now emerging from youth groups within Tahrir – as the Guardian’s story on decision-making in the square explained yesterday, it’s hard to measure the extent to which each one represents a consensus viewpoint from within the crowds, though most have very similar demands and all call for the immediate removal of Hosni Mubarak. The latest is from the ‘coalition of youths of the wrath revolution’, from a press conference they gave at the offices of independent Egyptian daily newspaper Al Shorouk. It appeals for the immediate release of all political prisoners and argues that ‘someone who has killed more than 300 youths [and] kidnapped and injured thousands more’ is not really entitled to a ‘dignified exit’.
Here’s the statement itself:
Press Conference in El-Shorook Newspaper Headquarters
Fellow great Egyptian citizens … We are your your daughters, your brothers and sisters who are protesting in Tahrir square and other squares of Egypt, promise you not to go back to our homes until the demands of your great revolution are realized.
Millions have gone out to overthrow the regime, and so the matter goes beyond figures in particular to the whole administration of the Egyptian State, which was transformed from a servant of the people to a master of the them.
We have heard the president’s disappointing speech. And really someone who has killed more than 300 youths, kidnapped and injured thousands more is not entitled to brag about past glories. Nor are his followers entitled to talk about the President’s dignity, because the dignity life and security of the Egyptian people is far more valuable than any single person’s dignity no matter how high a position he holds.
Our people live though tragedy for a week now, since Mubarak’s regime practiced a siege against us, releasing criminals and outlaws to terrorize us, imposing a curfew, stopping public transportation, closing banks, cutting off communications and shutting down the internet .. But if it was not for the courage of Egyptian youths who stayed up nights in the People’s Committees it would have been a terrible tragedy.
We want this crisis to end as soon as possible and for our lives and our families’ lives to get back to normal, but we do not trust Hosni Mubarak in leading the transitional period. He is the same person, who refused over the past 30 years any real political and economic reforms, and he hired criminals to attack Tahrir square and the peaceful demonstrators there, killing dozens and enjuring thousands – including women, elderly, and children.
Also, we will not allow the corrupt to remain in charge of the state institutions; therefore, we will continue our sit-in until the following demands are realized:
1- The resignation of the President and by the way this does not contradict the peaceful transition of power nor the current constitution which allows and organizes this process.
2- the immediate lifting of the state of emergency and releasing all freedoms and putting an immediate stop to the humiliation and torture that takes place in police stations
3- the immediate dissolve of both the Parliament and Shura Council
4- forming a national unity government that political forces agree upon which manages the processes of constitutional and political reform
5- forming a judicial committee with the participation of some figures from local human rights organizations to investigate the perpetrators of the collapse of state of security this past week and the murder and injury of thousands of our people.
6- Military in charge of protecting peaceful protestors from thugs and criminal affiliated with the corrupt regime and ensuring the safety of medical and nutritional convoys to civilians
7- the immediate release of all political detainees and in their forefront our colleague Wael Ghoneim
7.38pm: Egyptian-American Nobel laureate Ahmed Zewail has added his weight to the calls for Mubarak to step down to help end the standoff with the protesters, AP reports.
Zewail, who has been living in the United States, returned to Egypt on Sunday and met with government officials and young protesters to help mediate a resolution as protests continued for a 13th day.
“I call on President Hosni Mubarak, leader of the largest country in the Middle East, to give up power to another leader and make history in the Middle East,” he said at a news conference …
“We are at a crossroads in Egypt and we need a clear vision,” said Zewail, who has called for political and educational reforms in Egypt in the past.
He said he was optimistic after meeting with young protesters for seven hours to understand their demands.
Zewail said he believed a solution would involve amending the constitution, setting a timeline for free elections, canceling emergency laws, freeing political prisoners and respecting press freedom.
7.35pm: Here’s the Guardian’s latest lead story on the developments in Egypt, outlining the concessions offered by the government, and reporting on the criticisms that Omar Souleiman has not gone far enough in his proposals for greater political freedom.
Jack Shenker has spoken to Dina Omar, a cardiologist who has been working at a frontline medical station in Tahrir Square since the protests began:
People ask me why I’m here, and there’s only one answer. I’m not here as a protester, I’m not here as a doctor, I’m just here as an Egyptian. We all are.”
7.14pm: Al-Jazeera says there are reports of human chains created to block army tanks from entering Tahrir Square.
Here’s a video posted by justimage yesterday of a girl – clutching an Egyptian flag – leading a chant in Tahrir Square.
7.01pm: Joseph Stiglitz has written an article which appeared on Comment is Free this afternoon, looking at the developments in Tunisia and “the sense of national cohesion created by the successful overthrow of a widely hated dictator”.
The eyes of the world are now set on this small country of 10 million, to learn the lessons of its recent experience and to see if the young people who overthrew a corrupt autocrat can create a stable, functioning democracy.”
6.33pm: As mentioned in the comments section, there is a concerted campaign on Twitter – using the hashtag #freeayman – calling for the release of al-Jazeera’s Ayman Mohyeldin, who was arrested by the military earlier today.
6.28pm: The newly appointed prime minister, Ahmed Shafiq, spoke to CNN earlier. He said that Mubarak would remain in office “until the end of September”.
6.19pm: AFP reports that Vice President Omar Suleiman has rejected calls to take on Mubarak’s powers.
Here’s the latest Guardian gallery of images from in and around Tahrir Square, on a 13th day of demonstrations which the protesters have called the “Sunday of the martyrs”.
6.09pm: Issandr El Amrani posted an update from Tahrir Square on the Arabist website this afternoon:
The mood in Tahrir is, as ever, uplifting and ebullient. It’s a veritable tent city in the grassy parts, and the atmosphere is reminiscent of a moulid — the celebrations of saints that are part of the more Dionysian side of the way Islam is practiced in Egypt. Or, in Western terms, it’s Glastonbury out there.”
The gunfire, widely reported on Twitter, appears to have come after an attempt by the army to block an entrance to the square was disrupted by protesters.
5.44pm: Hello. Alex Olorenshaw here taking over from Matthew Weaver.
Al-Jazeera has received images “which appear to show scenes of intense fighting in central Cairo on Wedesday night”.
Ashraf Khalil, writing in The National, argues that the protests have dented the idea that the Muslim Brotherhood leads Egypt’s opposition:
While there has been significant public worry that the Brotherhood would dominate a post-Mubarak electoral landscape, it has been hard to find anyone in Tahrir this past week who shared that anxiety.”
5.03pm: Here’s a summary of this afternoon’s developments:
• Details of concessions agreed by Omar Suleiman at a meeting with groups have emerged. Concessions include liberalisation of the media and the release of political prisoners. Suleiman’s office noted that a transition of authority will take place “within the constitutional framework”.
• The negotiations were criticised by opposition leaders Mohamed ElBaradei and Ayman Nour. The British protester Khalid Abadalla said the concessions are “not enough” and that protesters would stay until Mubarak goes.
• A new batch of WikiLeaks cables reveals that Suleiman has long sought to demonise the Muslim Brotherhood in his contacts with a sceptical US. The FBI instructed the then ambassador to push for reform in order to tackle Islamic extremism. Suleiman also made play of the threat to Egypt from Iran.
• Concern continues to mount about the fate of the arrested Google employee Wael Ghuneim. Amnesty International says he faces a “serious risk of torture”.
4.57pm: Amnesty International today warned that a Google employee in Cairo, reportedly arrested at the start of the protests, faces a “serious risk of torture”.
Wael Ghuneim (or Ghonim) was arrested by Egyptian security forces on 28 January 2011 during protests in Cairo, eyewitnesses said.
Google said it hadn’t heard from him since then and appealed for information, according to the New York Times.
Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, deputy director of Middle and North Africa at Amnesty International said: “The Egyptian authorities must immediately disclose where Wael Ghuneim is and release him or charge him with a recognizable criminal offence.”
“He must be given access to a doctor and a lawyer of his choice and not be subjected to torture or other ill-treatment. His case is just one of many that highlight the continued crackdown by the Egyptian authorities on those exercising their right to protest peacefully.”
Video has emerged purporting to show the moment when four men arrested Ghuneim.
A source, who claims to have spoken to a senior military figure about Ghuneim’s case, claimed he is facing dangerous trumped up charges.
His case had initially been handled by joint task force from General Intelligence and State Security. He was accused of receiving assistance from foreign entities to undermine the stability of, and overturn the government, engaging in saboteurs activity against the dignity of the state, and promulgating stigmatizing disinformation in an online smear campaigns for the benefit of foreign agencies.
He is, now, in the New State Security Complex in the 7th District, Madinet Nassr, North East Of Cairo.
Nobody was able to talk to him, but his file has been seen, and was described as grave.
4.24pm: Opposition leader Mohamed ElBaradei has criticised the negotiation as “managed by the military”.
Speaking to NBC’s Meet the Press, ElBaradei who didn’t attend the talks but whose representative was present, said:
The process is opaque. Nobody knows who is talking to whom at this stage. It’s managed by Vice President Suleiman. It is all managed by the military and that is part of the problem.
I have not been invited to take part in the negotiations or dialogue but I’ve been following what is going on.
If you really want to build confidence, you need to engage the rest of the Egyptian people – the civilians.
He said the focus should be on the government, not Mubarak.
No, of course he doesn’t have to leave Egypt at all. He is an Egyptian he has absolutely the right to live in Egypt.
3.51pm: A marriage has taken been taking place in Tahrir Square between two protesters.
Omar Robert Hamilton tweets what the bride said:
Bride: “I’ve been living here for two weeks. Everyone here is my family. I can’t think of a better place to get married” #jan25
And there’s a video here.
3.46pm: Jack Shenker has been sent a statement from Suleiman’s office on today’s meetings. Here’s a full English translation.
The Vice-President held a series of meetings with representatives of the full spectrum of political parties and forces, as a well as a number of youths from the 25 January movement. The meetings arrived at the following consensus:
All participants of the dialogue arrived at a consensus to express their appreciation and respect for the 25 January movement and on the need to deal seriously, expeditiously and honestly with the current crisis that the nation is facing, the legitimate demands of the youth of 25 January and society’s political forces, with full consideration and a commitment to constitutional legitimacy in confronting the challenges and dangers faced by Egypt as result of this crisis, including: The lack of security for the populace; disturbances to daily life; The paralysis of by public services; The suspension of education at universities and schools; The logistical delays in the delivery of essential goods to the population; The damages to and losses of the Egyptian economy; The attempts at foreign intervention into purely Egyptian affairs and breaches of security by foreign elements working to undermine stability in implementation of their plots, while recognizing that the 25 January movement is a honorable and patriotic movement.
The participants in the national dialogue agreed on a number of political arrangements, and constitutional and legislative measures, which the participants agreed by consensus would be of a temporary nature until the election of new president at the end of the current presidential term, including:
First: Implementing the Commitments Announced by the President in Speech to the Nation on 1 February 2011:
1. No nomination for a new presidential term will take place;
2. A peaceful transition of authority within the constitutional framework;
3. The introduction of constitutional amendments to articles 76 & 77, and related constitutional amendments needed for the peaceful transition of authority;
4. Legislative amendments related to the amendments of the constitution;
5. Implementation of the rulings of the Court of Cassation, regarding challenges to the People’s Assembly election
6. Pursuit of corruption, and an investigation into those behind the breakdown of security in line with the law
7. Restoring the security and stability of the nation, and tasking the police forces to resume their role in serving and protecting the people.
Second: In implementation of these commitments the following measures will be taken:
1. A committee will be formed from members of the judicial authority and a number of political figures to study and recommend constitutional amendments, and legislative amendments of laws complimentary to the constitution to be completed by the first week of March.
2. The Government announces the establishment of a bureau to receive complaints regarding, and commits to immediately release, prisoners of conscience of all persuasions. The Government commits itself to not pursuing them or limiting their ability to engage in political activity.
3. Media and communications will be liberalized and no extra-legal constraints will be imposed on them.
4. Supervisory and judiciary agencies will be tasked with continuing to pursue persons implicated in corruption, as well as pursuing and holding accountable persons responsible for the recent breakdown in security.
5. The state of emergency will be lifted based on the security situation and an end to the threats to the security of society
6. All participants expressed their absolute rejection of any and all forms of foreign intervention in internal Egyptian affairs.
Third: A national follow-up committee will be established and composed of public and independent figures from among experts, specialists and representatives of youth movements, and will monitor the implementation of all consensual agreements, and issues reports and recommendations to the Vice-President
In addition, all participants in the dialogue saluted the patriotic and loyal role played by our Armed Forces at this sensitive time, and affirmed their aspirations for a continuation of that role to restore of calm, security and stability, and to guarantee the implementation and of the consensus and understandings that result from the meetings of the national dialogue.
3.25pm: Today’s concession are not enough, protester and British actor Khalid Abadalla says from Tahrir square. “The concessions were not enough, until they are enough we are still here,” he said.
The regime has realised that it’s days are numbered. Negotiation is going to have to be based on what is going to make the people in the square leave. The government is trying a policy of slowly giving away concessions, which at each turn the square replies by saying ‘that’s a token gesture it is not enough’. The people here are asking for Hosni Mubarak to leave.
There are countless number of people who have come for the first time [today]. The process of getting where we need to get to has started. We can expect these negotiations to happen. The question is in whose name are they happening.
The popular feeling is ‘I’m not leaving now’. Midan Tahrir has a system that works, it has borders that it can protect, it has its ways of feeding itself, it has ways to sleep, it has ways to bring people in and out safely. It has now become like a mini state that works and will function as long as it needs to in order to get what this country deserves.
2.55pm: Suleiman, has long sought to demonise the opposition Muslim Brotherhood in his contacts with a sceptical US, an interestingly timed new batch of WikiLeaks cables reveal.
Reuters, which says it has independently reviewed the cables, reports:
In a cable dated Feb. 15, 2006, then-ambassador Francis Ricciardone reported that Suleiman had “asserted that the MB (Muslim Brotherhood) had spawned ’11 different Islamist extremist organizations,’ most notably the Egyptian Islamic Jihad and the Gama’a Islamiya (Islamic Group).”
Suleiman, then Mubarak’s top spymaster, was speaking to FBI Director Robert Mueller, who was visiting Cairo in February 2006, the 2006 cable says.
The cable, which uses the spelling Soliman, said he had told Mueller that the Brotherhood was “neither a religious organization, nor a social organization, nor a political party, but a combination of all three.”
The cable went on: “The principal danger, in Soliman’s view, was the group’s exploitation of religion to influence and mobilize the public.”
“Soliman termed the MB’s recent success in the parliamentary elections as ‘unfortunate’, adding his view that although the group was technically illegal, existing Egyptian laws were insufficient to keep the MB in check.”
The cable was referring to parliamentary elections in November and December of 2005 in which the Brotherhood made strong gains, although Mubarak’s National Democratic Party kept a big majority.
In a cable dated January 2 2008, Ricciardone reported Suleiman as saying that Iran remained “a significant threat to Egypt”.
Successive US administrations have seen Mubarak’s government as a bulwark against Iran’s influence in the Arab world, a perception the Egyptian leader has used to his benefit in securing billions of dollars in military aid.
“Iran is supporting Jihad and spoiling peace, and has supported extremists in Egypt previously. If they were to support the Muslim Brotherhood this would make them “our enemy,” the ambassador reported Suleiman as saying.
In a cable dated Oct. 25, 2007, Ricciardone said Suleiman “takes an especially hard line on Tehran” and frequently refers to the Iranians as “devils.”
The cables suggest U.S. officials have consistently responded sceptically to the Egyptian government’s dire warnings about the Brotherhood.
In a Nov. 29, 2005, cable to Mueller before his visit, Ricciardone said Egyptian authorities “have a long history of threatening us with the MB bogeyman.”
“Your counterparts may try to suggest that (then President George Bush’s) insistence on greater democracy in Egypt is somehow responsible for the MB’s electoral success,” he wrote.
“You should push back that, on the contrary, the MB’s rise signals the need for greater democracy and transparency in government.”
“The images of intimidation and fraud that have emerged from the recent elections favour the extremists both we and the Egyptian government oppose. The best way to counter narrow-minded Islamist politics is to open the system.”
In a follow up cable on January 29, 2006, Ricciardone seemed to foreshadow the current unrest when he wrote to Mueller: “We do not accept the proposition that Egypt’s only choices are a slow-to-reform authoritarian regime or an Islamist extremist one; nor do we see greater democracy in Egypt as leading necessarily to a government under the MB.”
2.34pm:While the regime was agreeing to a free press (when conditioned allowed) as part of that deal with opposition leaders, another al-Jazeera reporter was being arrested.
The networked tweeted that’s its correspondent Ayman Mohyeldin was arrested by the military.
In his last Twitter update before his arrest, @AymanM posted a link to that horrific video of a shooting in Alexandria that was mentioned earlier.
2.22pm: Ayman Nour, leader of the el-Ghad (Tomorrow) party, has rejected the deal opposition leaders made with Suleiman.
“No one has the right to make decisions on behalf of the youth who have led the uprising,” Nour said according to a Twitter update from the journalist Sultan Sooud Al Qassemi.
Nour, who was imprisoned in 2005 by Mubarak and released on health grounds in 2009, co-wrote an article in the Guardian yesterday setting out the protesters demands.
The protesters also demanded the dissolution of both chambers of the parliament as well as local councils, all of which were elected by a theatrical political process controlled by the regime and its security apparatus. For this to happen, the people’s parliament proposed a peaceful transition of power through negotiating a national unity government of all political forces and protest movements in addition to the military. This transition government should oversee drafting a new constitution and laying out the rules of a political process that allows parties, civil society organisations and unions freely to emerge. This, in turn, can be followed by free and fair elections.
1.59pm: Suleiman rejected an opposition demand that he take over from Mubarak, AFP reports.
But Middle East analyst Issandr El Amrani is concerned that Egypt is heading for a “another strongman regime” lead by Suleiman. In a post on his Arabist blog he writes:
Under the Egyptian constitution, the president can delegate his powers by decree to the vice-president. This is what Mubarak did to grant Suleiman the authority to negotiate with the protestors. But the Egyptian constitution also allows for more than one vice-president, according to its Article 139.
It would be wise at this point to curtail Suleiman’s power by handing out different functions to different vice-presidents as Mubarak withdraws from any lead role in handling the crisis.
1.41pm: As if it couldn’t get any worse for Mubarak, he is now being laughed at in Saudi Arabia, according to NPR.
It reports that while the government is downplaying news of the unrest in the Egypt it has become source of material for Saudi stand up comics.
On a recent day, young Saudis drove 80 miles outside of the capital, past remote villages and Bedouin tents, to sit under the midday sun for a stand-up comedy festival…
Ibraheem al Khairallah is the most daring of the Saudi comedians here. He delivers his jokes in English, heavily mixed with Arabic — and hits home with barbed remarks about Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak.
“Egypt — big problem,” he begins. And then he jokes that Mubarak may soon visit the Saudi city of Jeddah, where Tunisia’s now former President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali took refuge when street protesters ended his rule in January.
1.38pm: There were more concessions agreed at the meeting between Suleiman and the opposition, including freedom of the press and the release political prisoners, according to AP.
Egypt’s vice president met a wide representation of major opposition groups for the first time Sunday and agreed to allow freedom of the press, to release those detained since anti-government protests began nearly two weeks and ago and to lift the country’s hated emergency laws when security permits.
Vice President Omar Suleiman endorsed a plan with the opposition to set up a committee of judiciary and political figures to study proposed constitutional amendments that would allow more candidates to run for president and impose term limits on the presidency, the state news agency reported. The committee was given until the first week of March to finish the tasks.
The regime also pledged not to harass those participating in the anti-government protests, which have drawn hundreds of thousands at the biggest rallies. The government also agreed not to hamper freedom of press and not to interfere with text messaging and Internet.
1.16pm: Time for a summary:
• Opposition groups, including the Muslim Brotherhood, have held talks with Vice President Omar Suleiman on what happens next in Egypt. They agreed to form a committee to come up with constitutional changes, according to reports. The Muslim Brotherhood said its key demand was that president Hosni Mubarak stands down. US secretary of state Hillary Clinton welcomed the Muslim Brotherhood’s involvement in the talks.
• Thousands of protesters continue to occupy Tahrir Square where they held Muslim and Christian services to remember those who have been killed in the protests. Protesters say they are determined to stay until Mubarak goes, but there is a growing acceptance that this could take some time.
• Queues formed outside banks which opened briefly for the first time since time today since the protests began. “People are anxious to get paid and pull money out. It has been almost two weeks and life is at a standstill,” one of those queuing said.
• Human Rights Watch expressed alarm about the arrest of activists and journalists. Video footage has emerged of a protester being shot in Alexandria amid varying estimates over the number of people killed in the demonstrations.
12.53pm: “We’re staying here until he leaves,” a protester in Tahrir Square says, where she reports that the mood is festive but determined.
There are more audio reports from Cairo on the Jan25voices’s Audioboo channel.
The pictures show Suleiman chairing the meeting at government offices in central Cairo, with a portrait of President Mubarak hanging behind him.
12.34pm:The Muslim Brotherhood demanded Mubarak stand down before any transition government is formed, a spokesman said following talks between the party and Vice President Omar Suleiman.
“The key demand was that President Mubarak must step down in order to usher in a democratic phrase,” a spokesman told al-Jazeera, following the meeting.
“I can’t see any genuineness or seriousness [about reform] from the regime,” he said.
He added that the Brotherhood does not wish to take part in government and would not field candidates in the presidential election. “We do not wish to take part in any government, we need free democratic elections and a freely democratically elected president. This is what we strive for,” he said.
The Egypt Daily News, citing AFP, reports the regime and the opposition has agreed to form a constitutional reform committee.
12.17pm: US secretary of state Hillary Clinton has welcomed the involvement of the Muslim Brotherhood in talks with the vice president, the Israeli news site Ynet reports.
Former US presidential candidate John McCain won’t be happy. In an interview with the German weekly magazine Spiegel he expressed alarm about involvement of the Muslim Brotherhood in any transition arrangements.
“It concerns me so much that I am unalterably opposed to it. I think it would be a mistake of historic proportions,” McCain said.
Asked about his assessment of the Muslim Brotherhood he said:
I think they are a radical group that first of all supports Sharia law; that in itself is anti-democratic – at least as far as women are concerned. They have been involved with other terrorist organisations and I believe that they should be specifically excluded from any transition government.
12.08pm: Egyptian blogger Ganzeer has posted an image of a queue outside an HSBC bank today, and anti-Mubarak graffiti at a cash machine in the city of Nasr.
11.52am: Confusion over US policy towards Egypt was exposed by its envoy Frank Wisner, when he said Mubarak’s “continued leadership” was critical.
Our diplomatic editor Julian Borger reflects on the apparent gaffe:
Wisner’s words bewildered the western officials gathered in Munich, raising a number of questions. Do Egypt and the world owe it to Mubarak to give him the chance “to write his own legacy”. And did Mubarak give 60 years of service to Egypt or is it the other way round?
It raised other questions in Washington, like who is making US policy on Egypt? At the same venue hours before, Hillary Clinton had made it quite clear that US policy was to back the vice president Omar Suleiman and his transition process.
The state department anxiously played down Wisner’s remarks, describing them as “his own”, but the whole episode was a reminder of the inherent problems in hiring special envoys from the ranks of retired diplomats who no longer feel constrained by state department discipline.
11.41am: It’s change over weekend for Guardian reporters in Egypt. Chris has replaced Peter, and Harriet Sherwood has had to leave Alexandria because it became too dangerous for foreign journalists to operate there. State TV had said there were Israeli spies posing as foreign reporters – Harriet is our Jerusalem correspondent and has an Israeli work permit in her passport. But she was reluctant to leave: in this diary of her week, she writes of covering a memorable story.
People are eloquent about the reasons for their uprising. Many speak of economic hardship, lack of democracy, the desire for freedom. One of the most memorable comments in a day, a week, of memorable conversations comes from a guy who tells me he has come “to fight the fear inside me”.
11.23am: Tarhrir square has been filling up quickly today with protesters taking part in Christian and Muslim services to remember those who have died in the protests, Chris McGreal reports from Cairo.
The Christian service was held with a large number of Muslims coming out to protect it, in solidarity. There is a real message coming out from the demonstrators that they represent all of Egypt no matter what class and what religion. They are aware that, particularly in the United States, there is this focus on the Islamic elements. There is a real attempt to show this is about all Egyptians not one section of society.
There is a division in square about whether opposition groups should be talking to Suleiman. In terms of the Muslim Brotherhood there is a feeling that they are part of the fabric of Egyptian politics. Whilst, there are some in the square who are concerned that they will gain power, and some are even fearful, there are not many that think they should not be part of the whole process, and most will welcome it.
There is nervousness in the square about what American intent is. After 30 years of American defined stability through Hosnie Mubarak, there is a concerned about any continuation of that definition of what is good for Egypt.
There is a realisation here in the square that it is going to be a longer haul [to get rid of Mubarak]. But I don’t see any lessening in support in the square for that central demand.
The Observer’s foreign correspondent Peter Beaumont, who has been in Cairo and before that covered the uprising in Tunisia, is heading back to Britain for a well-earned rest. We’ve replaced him with Chris McGreal, our Washington correspondent and Harriet’s predecessor as Jerusalem correspondent. You can follow him on Twitter here. Jack Shenker, our Cairo correspondent, who has done some remarkable work this week, is remaining along with Mustafa Khalili.
11.04am: That meeting between the Muslim Brotherhood and Suleiman has now taken place, Reuters reports. No word yet on what was said. But there were some interesting attendees.
Vice President Omar Suleiman held talks today with Egyptian opposition groups including the officially banned Muslim Brotherhood to try and find a way out of the country’s worst crisis in decades, attendees said.
They said the attendees included members of secular opposition parties, independent legal experts and business tycoon Naguib Sawiris. A representative of opposition figure Mohamed ElBaradei was also in attendance.
The opposition are demanding an end to President Hosni Mubarak’s three-decade rule.
Many of its members, including the Brotherhood, had said they would not meet any government representatives before he stepped down. He has refused to do so.
Suleiman last week urged the Brotherhood to join dialogue, calling it “valuable opportunity” for the group. It was his publically announced meeting with Brotherhood members since his appointment as vice president.
10.52am: Our correspondent in Cairo, Jack Shenker, reports on the latest skirmishes in a propaganda war between the regime and the protesters.
The standoff between protesters in Tahrir and the Mubarak regime is a media battle as much as anything else, and it’s a vastly unequal one: the Egyptian government spends millions of dollars on a trio of top Washington lobbyists to help push its message to the international media and foreign policy-making circles, whilst those opposed to the regime have to rely on word of mouth and online social media sites, access to which has regularly been cut off by the authorities in recent days.
Now though, members of the anti-Mubarak occupation are getting more savvy in their efforts to keep global opinion on their side. A new tactic is to put out fake press releases, spoofing the official statements issued to journalists by government ministers. Take for example this announcement from newly-appointed prime minister Ahmed Shafiq on Friday (sent by the Ministry of Information):
Prime Minister: Protestors will not be forced to leave
Cairo – Prime Minister Ahmed Shafik reiterated Governmental commitments that demonstrated would not be forced to leave Tahrir Square.
Speaking to an Arab Satellite Channel Dr. Shafik stressed that demonstrators were free to remain in the Tahrir Square, and that no one would be arrested for participating in the protests so long as they had not committed an act of violence or vandalism.
And now the response from a group of protesters in Tahrir, sent to me this morning:
Protesters: Mubarak will be forced to leave
Tahrir – Pro-democracy activists reiterated their commitment that the existing regime would be forced to leave government.
The overwhelming consensus in the participatory, democratic arena of Tahrir Square, was that Mr Mubarak would be free to flee to the country of his choosing, and that he would not meet his just rewards, despite his prolonged acts of violence and vandalism against the country.
Given the brutality perpetrated against the anti-Mubarak crowds in Tahrir and elsewhere in the country – first by the state’s central security forces then by regime-backed baltagiyya (thugs) – the protesters might be forgiven for thinking that it would be relatively simple to garner support from those watching events unfold from outside the square. But the struggle to shape the news agenda hour by hour, day by day, is a tough and unceasing one, and protesters know they have to try and keep their own voices prominent as other more formal opposition forces begin dialogue with the government, claiming to speak in their name. These spoof press releases may just do the trick.
10.38am: Human Rights Watch has expressed its growing alarm at the number of targeted arrests of journalists and protesters by the military.
“One thing that has been of serious concern to us in the last few days has been the increasing number of targeted arrests both of journalists, of human rights defenders, and of youth activists,” Heba Morayef HRW representative in Cairo told me.
“This kind of short term, arbitrary arrest, is very worrying in terms of things to come,” she says. “We see these short term arrests as part of a deterrent strategy to try to discourage people going back to the [Tahrir] square.”
“It was the military doing the arresting… it has become increasingly clear that the military is not on the side of the protesters,” Morayef says. She pointed out that it was a “dangerous” tactic by the military because police abuse was one the reasons that sparked the original unrest.
Some of the arrested witness beatings and abuse of fellow detainees, she said.
10.14am: Those who have been killed in the protests are being remembered at prayers in Tahrir Square. Services will be held in churches in Cairo later today.
Scott Lucas on Enduring America’s live blog of the protests, picks out two memorial websites for some of those killed. 1000 memories has photos and details of 44 people killed in the protests, Killed in Egypt has a spreadsheet with 58 names on it. Al-Jazeera reports that some have estimated that as many as 300 could have died in 13 days of unrest.
10.05am: Graphic rooftop footage has emerged purporting to show a protester being gunned down in Alexandria [Warning: disturbing content] . Towards the end of the film the protester is seen gesturing with his arms out before he falls to the ground after gunshot is heard. It is unclear when the incident took place.
9.54am: More than 340 banks, including 152 in Cairo, have opened for business for the first time since the protests began.
A steady stream of employees flowed into Cairo’s financial district and customers queued to access their accounts, on the first day for the country’s banks to open after a week-long closure due to political protests.
Bankers are bracing for chaos in dealing rooms with foreign investors and local businessmen fleeing the Egyptian pound after the street protests paralysed much of the economy and dried up important sources of foreign exchange.
Armoured personnel carriers stood guard at intersections where soldiers had erected sandbag barriers, as buses dropped employees off at large state banks.
Outside the banks, dozens of customers were waiting to enter when they opened for public business at 10 am.
“We have to have some order around here. People are anxious to get paid and pull money out. It has been almost two weeks and life is at a standstill,” said Metwali Sha’ban, a volunteer making a list of customers to organize who would enter first.
9.22am: If you’re an Arabic speaker you may find this blog easier to follow using this (automatic) translation button.
ترجم هذه الصفحة إلى العربية
9.19am:The new Egyptian vice president, Omar Suleiman, is emerging as the key figure in what happens next.
One of the key opposition parties, the Muslim Brotherhood, said it plans to hold talks with him. A Muslim Brotherhood spokesman told Reuters: “We decided to take the people’s demands to the negotiation table,” Essam el-Erian, a spokesman for the Muslim Brotherhood, told CNN. The party’s meeting with Suleiman is is due to take place later this morning.
Only yesterday the Brotherhood were reported to be opposed to negotiation. The apparent change of tactics, came after the US swung its support behind Suleiman, to the dismay of many protesters.
Banks and businesses reopened today in the first clear test of how far anti-government protesters can maintain momentum. “We want people to go back to work and to get paid, and life to get back to normal,” Egyptian army commander Hassan al-Roweny said.
The other main developments overnight are:
• Several leading figures, including Hosni Mubarak’s son Gamal, resigned yesterday from the ruling National Democratic Party. A relative liberal, Hossam Badrawi, was appointed the party’s new secretary general.
• Hillary Clinton signalled US support for vice presidnet Suleiman and stressed the importance of “the transition process” that he is heading.
• The US State Department has distanced itself from remarks made by US envoy Frank Wisner in which he said Mubarak should remain in office throughout the transition period.
• Ahmad Mohamed Mahmoud, a photographer with the newspaper Al-Ta’awun, has become the first journalist to die in the unrest.
Two New York Times journalists, Souad Mekhennet and Nicholas Kulish, give an account of their arrest last week.
Our discomfort paled in comparison to the dull whacks and the screams of pain by Egyptian people that broke the stillness of the night. In one instance, between the cries of suffering, an officer said in Arabic, “You are talking to journalists? You are talking badly about your country?”
Chris McGreal gauges the reactions among protesters on Tahrir square to the latest political and diplomatic manoeuvring:
So many in the square take a sceptical view of Washington’s plan for Mubarak’s deputy and intelligence chief, Omar Suleiman, to oversee the political transition. There is suspicion of Suleiman because of his past, but there is even greater concern that he will serve American interests which, among other things, are believed to be partly about containing the influence of the Muslim Brotherhood.
“When Obama said Mubarak must go, we were very happy,” said Amira Ismael. “If Obama gets rid of Mubarak, you will see that many people in Egypt will love America. If Obama leaves it to the Egyptian people, we will love him. But if Obama tries to force us to have a government we don’t want, it will be different. We will win and then we will judge Obama by what he does and take decisions according to how he behaves.”
After covering both the Tunisian and Egyptian uprisings Peter Beaumont says the mood change among people is the most significant development:
A threshold of fear has been crossed. For what has happened in both countries is that the structures of a police state have been challenged and found, to the surprise of many, to be weaker than imagined…
Even if Mubarak continues to hang on, what is clear is that a transition of power is already under way. It is not, however, one defined by negotiations between parties or the behind-the-scenes diplomacy at the behest of the US and the EU.
Instead the shift taking place is a leaching of power from existing elites in both states’ authoritarian centres. They have been forced, in Tunis, into the effective purging of Ben Ali loyalists, and in Cairo Mubarak’s state has had to offer ever more concessions. And suddenly the small, brave worlds of activists in both countries have been embraced by a wider population no longer afraid to speak or to assemble.
The Observer’s Andrew Rawnsley castigates the response of western leaders:
Officials and ministers frankly acknowledge – at least in private – that these convulsions have caught Washington, London, Paris, Berlin and Brussels with their pants around their ankles…
We could put this down to simple incompetence, but I fear that would be a bit too charitable. It is also the result of an ingrained assumption among too many opinion-formers and policy-makers in the west that certain parts of the world “can’t do democracy”, that there are fellow citizens of planet Earth who are somehow less deserving of freedom or less capable of exercising it.
What happens next? On Friday The Guardian’s Middle East East editor Ian Black outlined four possible scenarios which are still relevant: climbdown; protests subside; escalating violence and standoff.
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