Last Updated: Thu Feb 10, 2011 07:05 am (KSA) 04:05 am (GMT)

Egypt army would intervene in case of chaos: FM


The army would be forced to intervene if anti-government protests push Egypt into chaos, Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Abul Gheit said Wednesday, according to the state news agency.

"We have to preserve the constitution, even if it is amended," Abul Gheit told Al-Arabiya television, according to the MENA news agency.

"He warned that if chaos occurs, the armed forces will intervene to control the country, a step, he said, which would lead to a very dangerous situation," the news agency said, paraphrasing the interview.

He also said that the United States is "imposing" its will on Egypt by demanding immediate reforms, in an interview with PBS television.

Gheit's remarks came the day after Egypt's Vice President Omar Suleiman warned those protesting in the street against Mubarak risk provoking a situation in which a coup d'etat was possible.

Suleiman's statement was dismissed by many of the protesters on the streets of Cairo, and denounced as a threat by one of the most powerful of opposition groups, the Muslim Brotherhood.

"This amounts to a threat that is unacceptable in the eyes of the Egyptian people," Mohammed Mursi, a spokesman for the Islamist group.

"The protesters have imposed a new legitimacy, and this legitimacy should be respected, for it cannot be threatened," he said.

Mubarak’s old age

Abul Gheit told Alarabiya that the Egypt’s parliamentary results, Mubarak’s old age and the ambiguity over his successor were reasons over the protests that gripped Egypt since January 25.

Many speculators mulled Egypt’s president son, Jamal Mubarak as the likely successor. They also described Egypt’s election as rigged, when the National Democratic Party won around 98 percent of the votes.

Abul Gheit also criticized President Barack Obama’s administration over what is happening in Egypt, but he said that the U.S. only now understood the country's situation.

Meanwhile, Egypt’s constitutional committee has agreed to amend six articles in the country’s constitution; also a probe on Wednesday started investigating corruption charges against former ministers and businessmen.

Facing huge protests since Jan. 25, Mubarak has said he will not seek re-election in September after 30 years in power and he has authorized his new vice president, Omar Suleiman, to begin talks with opposition groups on political reform.

The reforms would include amending the constitution to ease rules on who can run for president, limit the number of terms a president can seek and other constitutional changes.

Protesters have occupied Tahrir Square in central Cairo saying the concessions are not enough and that Mubarak must resign immediately. Suleiman says Mubarak will not step down before September and is needed to oversee a transition.

The army, which had taken a largely neutral role unlike police who clashed violently with protesters, has said it will protect demonstrators but has asked them to stand down to "save Egypt".

Opposition parties want major constitutional reform to allow them to compete in the presidential and legislative elections on a level playing field.

US criticizes Egypt

 The government has not taken the necessary steps that the people of Egypt need to see 
White House spokesman Robert Gibbs

The White House said Wednesday that Egypt's government had not even met what it calls the "minimum threshold" of reforms demanded by its people, and warned that massive protests will continue until changes are made.

"The government has not taken the necessary steps that the people of Egypt need to see," White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said. "That's why more and more people come out to register their grievances."

Gibbs suggested some Egyptian leaders may have wrongly predicted they could wait out the protesters, but he said a surging presence of activists on the streets show that's not the case.

"If there's some notion on the government side that you can put the genie back in this bottle, I think that's gone a long time ago," he said.

Gibbs said the best way for Suleiman to ensure that the protests are lessened is to broaden the scope of the negotiations he's been tasked to lead.

Culture minister resigns

Egypt's Culture Minister Gaber Asfour, appointed just nine days ago to a new cabinet after a reshuffle prompted by massive anti-government protests, has resigned, he told AFP on Wednesday.

Asfour said the resignation was for "medical reasons," but it came after he faced criticism from prominent intellectuals for joining the new cabinet, which was appointed in an attempt to placate anti-regime demonstrators.

A source close to Asfour said the minister had submitted his resignation to Prime Minister Ahmed Shafiq and that his letter of resignation contained a number of reasons that would be announced "at a later time."

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