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Egypt warns of military intervention

Egypt’s foreign minister has warned that the military would “intervene to control the country” if it fell into chaos, as protests against the rule of President Hosni Mubarak entered their 17th day.
Meanwhile, Saudi A

Egypt’s foreign minister has warned that the military would “intervene to control the country” if it fell into chaos, as protests against the rule of President Hosni Mubarak entered their 17th day.

Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia has reportedly said it will prop up Mubarak’s regime if Washington withdraws its support.

King Abdullah told President Barack Obama not to push Mubarak too hard and humiliate him amid the ongoing protests demanding his ouster in a telephone call on January 29, reported The Times, quoting a source in Riyadh.

Ahmed Aboul Gheit, in an interview on Al Arabiya, seemed to add to the ominous warning of Vice President Omar Suleiman on Wednesday that the government would not tolerate prolonged anti-government protests in Tahrir Square. Suleiman told activists not to attempt more civil disobedience, calling it “extremely dangerous.”

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According to Al Arabiya’s website, Aboul Gheit said: “We have to preserve the Constitution, even if it is amended. If chaos occurs, the armed forces will intervene to control the country, a step which would lead to a very dangerous situation.”

The military has pledged not to use force against the protesters who have occupied Cairo’s central Tahrir Square for almost two weeks and whose tactics have broadened to the establishment of a fresh encampment outside the Egyptian Parliament.

But it has also deployed tanks and reinforcements across the city, setting up a narrow access point to Tahrir Square that forces would-be protesters into single file after they stand in long lines to enter.

Suleiman said Wednesday that the alternatives facing tens of thousands of demonstrators demanding Mubarak’s ouster were dialogue with the authorities or “a coup.”

Meanwhile, Wael Ghonim, a Google marketing manager who helped spark the country’s unprecedented protest movement in recent weeks, said the time for negotiations in Egypt had passed.

In a CNN interview, Ghonim also said he was “ready to die” for the opposition’s cause.

“And I’m telling this to Omar Suleiman,” he said. “He’s going to watch this. You’re not going to stop us. Kidnap me, kidnap all my colleagues. Put us in jail. Kill us. Do whatever you want to do. We are getting back our country. You guys have been ruining this country for 30 years. Enough. Enough. Enough.”

Ghonim said: “This is no longer the time to negotiate unfortunately… [the Egyptian government] decided to negotiate with us at night, with rubber bullets, with police sticks, with water hoses.”

“Thanks, we got the message,” he quipped.

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Ghonim, who described being “super-scared” during his 12-day detention, called the Egyptian unrest “Revolution 2.0.”

“If you want to free a society, just give them internet access,” he said. “People will see the truth.”

He said the Muslim Brotherhood was “not involved at all” in the planning stages of the protests. “The Muslim Brotherhood announced that they’re not going to participate officially,” he said.

Al Jazeera reported that about 5,000 doctors and medical students, as well as lawyers, public transport workers and the artists, were expected to join the protests Thursday, after nationwide  labor strikes Wednesday.

Thousands of people working at various state companies went on strike at their separate factories Wednesday. This included textile workers, public transport workers, electricity workers, medicine bottle manufacturers, sanitation workers and a firm involved in Suez Canal ship repairs.

Estimates of the number of people involved in the labor strikes across Egypt varied from 5,000 to tens of thousands.

Most demanded an increase in the country’s minimum wage, which has not risen in 27 years, and the right to form independent unions.

“It’s certainly increasing the pressure on the government here. I think it’s worth making the distinction that the strikes going on are more of an economic nature, they are not necessarily jumping on the bandwagon of the protesters in Tahrir Square,” Dekker said.

“Many of them are not actually calling for the president to step down, but fighting for better wages, for better working conditions.”

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On Wednesday, Aboul Gheit dismissed calls by Egyptian protesters and Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. to scrap the country’s emergency laws, which allow the authorities to detain people without charge.

“We have 17,000 prisoners loose in the streets out of jails that have been destroyed,” he said in an interview on PBS. “How can you ask me to sort of disband that emergency law while I’m in difficulty?”