Egyptian troops have scuffled with pro-democracy protesters in Cairo’s Tahrir Square as they moved them aside to make way for traffic to resume through the focal point of the uprising that ousted President Hosni Mubarak.
Soldiers entered the square Sunday morning and began removing the tents set up to shelter the protesters whose determined presence forced Mr. Mubarak to step down Friday and hand power to the military.
Hundreds of thousands of Egyptians celebrated his ouster in the square late Friday and Saturday before returning home, but hundreds remained Sunday, vowing to stay until Egypt’s new military rulers meet their demands for democratic reforms. Scuffles broke out as some of the activists tried to resist the soldiers’ efforts to clear the tent camp.
A coalition of youth groups that organized the protests issued a list of demands Saturday, including the dissolution of the ruling party-dominated parliament and the lifting of a deeply unpopular emergency law installed by Mr. Mubarak when he took office in 1981.
Egypt’s military has promised to oversee a transition to a democratic, civilian government, but has given no timetable. It also urged the pro-democracy activists to go home and allow normal life to resume after the 18 days of anti-government protests that caused major disruption to the Egyptian economy.
In a statement Saturday, the military said the Cabinet appointed by Mr. Mubarak on January 31 will remain in place until a civilian government is formed. The Cabinet was due to meet Sunday, but without Information Minister Anas al-Fiki, who resigned a day earlier.
The Egyptian military also vowed to “remain committed” to all of Egypt’s regional and international treaties and other agreements, a pledge welcomed by Israel, which had been concerned about the fate of its 1979 peace treaty with Cairo. That agreement was the first between an Arab nation and the Jewish state.
U.S. President Barack Obama also welcomed the military’s pledges Saturday, during telephone conversations with his counterparts in Britain, Jordan and Turkey.
The White House says Mr. Obama expressed a belief that democracy will “bring more – not less – stability” to the region. It says he also pledged to provide “necessary and requested” financial support and other assistance to Egypt as it moves toward free and fair elections.