Egypt protests continue as Mubarak's government offers concessions
Monday, February 7, 2011; 11:21 AM
Protests continued in Tahrir Square and elsewhere in Egypt after the government of President Hosni Mubarak began offering concessions. As Craig Whitlock and Griff Witte reported:
Thousands of pro-democracy protesters maintained their vigil in this capital's central plaza Monday, even as the Egyptian government offered new concessions and tried to return Cairo to some semblance of normalcy.
President Hosni Mubarak met with cabinet members, part of his strategy to demonstrate that he's still in charge and that the government is functioning normally despite the protests.
Afterward, the government announced more concessions in a bid to lower the anti-Mubarak sentiment that has fueled the two-week-old protests, unprecedented in Mubarak's 30-year regime. Officials said salaries and pensions will be raised 15 percent, starting in April, for the 6 million people on Egypt's public payroll.
Egyptian state television also reported that Wael Ghonim, a missing Google marketing manager who played a key role in organizing the demonstrations, would be released to his family later Monday. He disappeared Jan. 28 and was believed held by Egypt's feared state security services.
As events unfold in Egypt the White House is scrambling to keep pace. As Joby Warrick and Scott Wilson reported:
All week, events in Egypt had churned so rapidly it was hard to keep up, even for a U.S. secretary of state who travels with a phalanx of BlackBerry-wielding aides. When Hillary Rodham Clinton departed Washington late Friday for a conference in Germany, the Egyptian capital was peaceful and the government appeared to be moving toward negotiations with protesters. By the time the plane landed Saturday, the fragile progress had stalled.
The head-spinning pace of change prompted an acknowledgment by Clinton about the limits of the United States' ability to influence to shape of the government that will come after President Hosni Mubarak.
"Those of us who are trying to make helpful offers of assistance and suggestions for how to proceed are still, at the end, on the outside looking in," a weary Clinton told a European security conference Saturday.
Also paying close attention to events in Egypt are opposition leaders in Iran, reported Thomas Erdbrink:
As described by Iran's leaders, the uprising in Egypt has served as vindication of their country's Islamic revolution 32 years ago. But for the opposition here, the scenes on the streets of Cairo have brought stark reminders of their own unfinished quest for political reform.
The divergent narratives illustrate the deep divide that separates President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and his supporters from a struggling opposition movement made up of middle-class urbanites and politicians who were pushed from power. They also underscore the uncertainty over where events in Egypt will lead, allowing political opposites to view them through their own lens.
In endorsing the popular movements in Egypt and Tunisia, Iranian leaders have called them a sign that the region is rising up against the United States. In a sermon on Friday, Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, likened the events to an "earthquake" that is uprooting American "servants" among Arab leaders, reflecting diminishing American power.
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