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Egypt’s military dissolves parliament, suspends constitution

February 13, 2011
Egypt’s new military leadership dissolves parliament, suspended the constitution and says it will form a panel to amend the country’s constitution before submitting the changes to a popular referendum. Troops, meanwhile scuffle with holdout protesters in Tahrir Square as they move in to dismantle the protest camp and the Egyptian Museum reported the theft of major treasures
Protester shouts as they resist being removed by Egyptian soldiers from Cairo's Tahrir Square on Sunday. AFP photo
Protester shouts as they resist being removed by Egyptian soldiers from Cairo’s Tahrir Square on Sunday. AFP photo

Egypt’s military leaders dissolved parliament and suspended the constitution on Sunday, meeting two key demands of protesters who have been keeping up pressure for immediate steps to push forward the transition to democratic, civilian rule after forcing Hosni Mubarak out of power.

In their latest communique, the military rulers that took over when Mubarak stepped down Friday, said they will run the country for six months, or until presidential and parliament elections can be held.

The military leaders said they were forming a committee to amend the constitution and set the rules for popular referendum to endorse the amendments.

Both the lower and upper houses of parliament are being dissolved. The last parliamentary elections in November and December were heavily rigged by the ruling party, virtually shutting out any opposition representation.

The caretaker Cabinet, which was appointed by Mubarak shortly after the mass pro-democracy protests began on Jan. 25, will remain in place until a new Cabinet in formed – a step that is not expected to happen until after elections.

The ruling military council reiterated that it would abide by all of Egypt’s international treaties agreed in the Mubarak era, most importantly the peace treaty with Israel.

Earlier on Sunday, Egyptian troops scuffled with holdout protesters in Tahrir Square on Sunday as they moved in to dismantle the protest camp after the fall of Mubarak, but outbreaks of labor unrest, including a demonstration by police, reflected the challenges of steering Egypt toward stability and democratic rule.

There were also protests by workers at a ceramic factory, a textile factory and at least two banks as Egyptians emboldened by the autocrat’s fall sought to improve their lot in a country where poverty and other challenges will take years or decades to address.

Troops pushed aside a dwindling band of protesters who don’t want to abandon their encampment in Tahrir Square, fearful that the generals entrusted with a transition to democratic rule will not fulfill their pledges.

Still, most protesters had left the square in downtown Cairo, and traffic moved through the area for the first time, even though some activists tried to block vehicles by laying down blankets in the road. About 1,000 police who protested in front of the Interior Ministry, which oversees them, scuffled with soldiers who tried to disperse them. Some troops fired gunshots in the air, but later withdrew to avoid antagonizing the protesters.

Major pieces looted from Egypt museum

As the cabinet met, Egypt’s minister of state for antiquities Zahi Hawass said that during the revolt several major artifacts had been stolen from the Egyptian museum, including a statue of Tutankhamun, better known as King Tut.

The objects missing from the famed museum include “a gilded wood statue of the 18th Dynasty king Tutankhamun being carried by a goddess” and parts of another statue showing him harpooning, he said.

Looters had broken into the museum off Cairo’s Tahrir Square on January 28, during clashes between protesters and riot police.

Museum director Tarek al-Awadi said looters went on a rampage, shattering 13 display cases and at least 70 artifacts. He added that curators were still carrying out an inventory to determine the extent of the losses.

The missing pieces include a limestone statue of Pharaoh Akhenaten holding an offering table, a statue of Queen Nefertiti making offerings and a sandstone head of a princess from Amarna, a vast archaeological site in central Egypt.

Also missing were a stone statuette of a scribe from Amarna and 11 wooden shabti statuettes of Yuya, a powerful courtier from the time of the 18th Dynasty, which ruled along the banks of the Nile more than 3,000 years ago.

Sunday’s cabinet meeting came a day after the resignation of the highly unpopular information minister Anas al-Fiki, who was allegedly behind a media campaign that presented the protesters as foreign agents.

In the Suez Canal city of Ismailiya, hundreds of members of the widely hated police force marched in solidarity with the uprising Saturday, insisting they had been ordered against their will to shoot at protesters.

Compiled from AP and AFP reports by the Daily News staff.

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