Last Updated: Sat Feb 05, 2011 21:15 pm (KSA) 18:15 pm (GMT)

Egypt ruling party executive committee resigns

A woman holds up a picture of Mubarak during a protest in Times Square
A woman holds up a picture of Mubarak during a protest in Times Square

The top executive committee of Egypt's ruling National Democratic Party (NDP), which includes strongman Hosni Mubarak's son Gamal, resigned en masse on Saturday, state television reported.

"The members of the executive committee resigned from their posts. It was decided to name Hossam Badrawi secretary general of the party," the regime's channel announced amid ongoing opposition street protests.

Badrawi, who is reputed to have good relations with opposition figures, replaces Safwat al-Sherif as head of the executive and also Gamal Mubarak as head of the party's political bureau, it said.

The NDP executive has six members, including its secretary general. Gamal was its number two, and also headed the 30-strong political committee.

Hosni Mubarak remains president of both the party and of Egypt, despite the nationwide street revolt against his rule.

"As president of the National Democratic Party, President Mubarak decided to name Hossam Badrawi secretary general of the party," a news ticker on state television said, dismissing rumors that the president had quit the party.

In immediate U.S. response President Barack Obama's special envoy Frank Wiser said Hosni Mubarak, an "old friend" of the U.S., should stay in office during a democratic transition.

Wiser added there was still a risk of violence erupting but he saw early signs that Egypt was moving towards a peaceful resolution.

"There is a chance to move forward. It's fragile, it's the first stage, things could go wrong. But the direction is promising," special envoy Frank Wisner told a security conference in Munich, via a video link from Washington.

Scenarios of departure

 None of this can happen if Mubarak is at the center of the process 
A US official

As protesters continue to occupy Cairo’s Tahrir square demanding the departure of the 82-year old president, the government continues to provide concessions in hope that protesters can abandon their top demand.

Vice President Omar Suleiman and top Egyptian military leaders were discussing plans to limit President Hosni Mubarak's authority and possibly remove him from the presidential palace in Cairo, The New York Times reported Saturday.

Citing unnamed U.S. and Egyptian officials, the newspaper said these plans did not call for him to be stripped of the presidency immediately. But they would allow for the formation of a transitional government headed by Suleiman, which would negotiate with opposition figures amendments to Egypt’s constitution and other democratic changes.

The ageing leader has shown no intention of stepping down imminently, despite huge demonstrations on the Muslim day of prayer Friday on Cairo's Tahrir Square -- the epicentre of the protests -- and in Alexandria.

But The Times said that among the ideas that had been discussed were suggestions that Mubarak move to his home at Sharm el-Sheikh or embark on one of his annual medical leaves to Germany for an extended checkup.

Such steps would provide him with a graceful exit and effectively remove him as the central political player, the report said.

Suleiman and top Egyptian military officers are also being encouraged to hold detailed discussions with opposition groups on opening up the political system, establishing term limits for the president and adopt some key democratic principles ahead of September elections, The Times noted.

"None of this can happen if Mubarak is at the center of the process," the paper quotes an unnamed senior US administration official as saying. "But it doesn’t necessarily require the president to leave office right now."

Suleiman assassination attempt

 That news report brings into sharp relief the challenges we are facing as we navigate through this period 
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton

A senior Egyptian security source denied on Saturday a report carried in U.S. media of an assassination attempt on Egypt's Vice President Omar Suleiman amid reports of discussions to distance Mubarak from power.

The source, who did not want to be named, said there was no truth to the report at all.

Fox News said the attempt on his life had left two of Suleiman's bodyguards dead, but said it had no independent confirmation of the report.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said on Friday the reports put into "sharp relief" the challenges of the standoff between government and protesters.

"That news report brings into sharp relief the challenges we are facing as we navigate through this period," Clinton told a security conference in Munich after being told of the report.

But a U.S. official said the secretary of state's comments did not constitute a confirmation of the news report.

Suleiman, the former Egyptian intelligence chief, was appointed by Mubarak a week ago, the first time the 82-year-old leader has named a deputy in three decades in power. Suleiman has promised to hold to account those responsible for the violence against protesters in Cairo, widely blamed on security forces in plain clothes and Mubarak loyalists.

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