Semblance of normality in Cairo as banks, shops open

Even as representatives of the Muslim Brotherhood and other Egyptian opposition leaders held talks with the government on Sunday, pro-democracy activists at the Tahrir Square in Cairo have made it known that they will hold massive demonstrations every alternate day until President Hosni Mubarak steps down.

Ayman, one of the young diehard organisers of the revolt, told The Hindu that people in the square “commune” had elected a 20-member council, which included 10 youth representatives, who would now play an energetic role in shaping negotiations with the government.

He added that the military would not evict the protesters from their hallowed ground as there was ample support for the pro-democracy movement among the soldiers “below the rank of Colonel.”

A Muslim Brotherhood representative said that his organisation was now looking at adopting in Egypt a variant of the “Turkish model,” which combined democracy, without shedding the cultural trappings of Islam.

After facing a virtual lockdown since the uprising roared on January 25, Cairo on Sunday acquired a semblance of functionality, though normality was still far away. Some banks opened for the first time since the agitation began, more shops lifted their shutters and traffic, on the first day of the working week here, was modestly heavier.

Reflecting the mood among many tepid supporters of the uprising, Amir a 27-year-old Coptic Christian said after the Sunday prayer service:

“I have supported the protests for democracy but it now time to go for talks.”

U.S. steps up effort

AFP & PTI report:

In Washington on Saturday, U.S. President Barack Obama spoke to several foreign leaders about the unrest in Egypt, as the U.S. stepped up a diplomatic effort for a quick transition of power in the country.

Mr. Obama underscored the need for “an orderly, peaceful transition, beginning now,” said the White House in a statement.

A report from Berlin said, amid news that Mr. Mubarak may travel to Germany for medical treatment, Chancellor Merkel's coalition had offered him refuge.

If Germany could make a constructive contribution to bring about a peaceful transition in Egypt by enabling Mr. Mubarak to travel to this country, “then we should take him, if he wants,” said Andreas Schockenhoff, deputy parliamentary leader of Ms. Merkel's Christian Democratic Union.

Keywords: Egypt crisis

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