|Hundreds March In Cairo Demanding Mursi Ouster|
|[Maan] Hundreds of people marched on Cairo's Tahrir Square on Friday calling for Egypt's Islamist President Mohamed Mursi to resign and demanding early elections, AFP correspondents and local media reported.|
At the head of one march people were carrying two large banners, one reading "an early presidential election" and the other "a unifying constitution for Egypt."
Marchers from the Tamarod (rebellion) campaign, which claims to have garnered more than two million signatures demanding that Mursi resign, collected more names from people along the route.
State media said security had been beefed up around the interior ministry, close to Tahrir Square, as it has been the scene of violent confrontations in the past.
The opposition accuses Mursi of governing only in the interests of his , while he insists he is the "president of all Egyptians."
Since Mursi was elected last June, Egypt has continued to suffer from a serious political and economic crisis, and there have often been frequent , sometimes deadly, between his opponents and supporters.
The Friday protest billed as a major demonstration against Morsi drew only a few thousand people, signalling how momentum for protests that erupted around the second anniversary of the uprising that ousted has steadily evaporated.
Members of "rebellion," an anti-Morsi campaign launched this month, gathered signatures at the demonstration for a petition calling for Morsi's removal and early elections.
|Too early to judge Mursi: Mubarak|
|CAIRO - Former Egyptian leader Hosni Mubarak said it was too early to judge President Mohamed Mursi, saying the politician faced a difficult job, in comments billed as his first interview since his removal from power in 2011.|
El Watan newspaper said its journalist broke through security lines to speak to Mubarak on Saturday before his retrial on charges of complicity in the death of protesters killed in the popular uprising that swept him from office.
“He is a new president who is carrying out weighty missions for the first time, and we shouldn’t judge him now,” Mubarak said in the remarks published on Sunday.
Mubarak, who was president for almost 30 years, said he was saddened by what he described as the difficult conditions facing the poor and the Egyptian economy.
“This is the secret of my sadness: to see the poor in this condition,” said Mubarak.
He said he was worried by the prospect of Egypt concluding an agreement with the International Monetary Fund on a $4.8 billion loan seen as vital to supporting the economy. The loan would bring austerity measures likely to curb subsidy spending.
Economists fault the Mubarak-era subsidy regime for failing to target state support at the most needy. Mubarak said the poor were at the heart of his decision-making, especially when it came to subsidy spending on staples.
“I fear for the country because of the IMF loan,” he said. “Its terms are very difficult, and represent a great danger to the Egyptian economy later on. This will then hit the poor citizen, and the low-income bracket,” he said.
Mubarak also said he was concerned about lax security, apparently referring to increased crime, and a rise in militancy in the Sinai Peninsula.
He added, “History will judge and I am still certain that the coming generations will view me fairly”.
|Six ministers to change in Egypt cabinet reshuffle|
|A limited cabinet reshuffle will see six ministers replaced in Egypt, state newspaper Al Ahram said on Thursday, citing government sources. The new ministers, who could swear oath on Tuesday, are expected to be those of justice, legal and prosecution affairs, culture, agriculture, planning and international cooperation, and one of the economic portfolio ministries, Al Ahram said, without naming the candidates.|
The reshuffle is seen as an attempt by President Mohamed Mursi, who hailed from the Muslim Brotherhood group, to ease tensions with opponents.
Prime Minister Hisham Kandil, widely criticised as colourless and ineffectual, will keep his job in the limited reshuffle, a presidential spokesman said last week.
|Egypt's Moussa says Brotherhood out for revenge|
|[Al Ahram] Egypt's ruling is trying to exact on the judiciary for years of imprisonment and political exclusion, but is attacking the wrong target, opposition leader said on Monday.|
The elder statesman told that Egypt faced an exceptional "to-be-or-not-to-be crisis" worse than after its 1967 defeat by Israel, and Islamist President Mohamed Mursi would do better to pursue national unity rather than division.
Mursi appeared to back down when he agreed with senior judges on Sunday to seek a compromise on judicial reform instead of acting on proposals by his Islamist supporters to force more than 3,000 judges into retirement.
Moussa, 76, a former secretary-general and Egyptian foreign minister, said the assault on judicial independence should never have happened in the first place.
"This is not a concession. This is what should have been done from the start," he said in an interview in his liberal opposition Congress Party's office, saying Mursi's climbdown came after strong public disapproval.
|Egyptian Court Reinstates Prosecutor|
|[AAWSAT.NET] An Egyptian court on Wednesday overturned a controversial decision by President Mohamed Mursi to sack former Prosecutor General Abdel Meguid Mahmud, ordering his reinstatement.|
Mursi had sacked Mahmud in November last year as part of a contentious decree in which he granted himself sweeping powers and placed his decisions beyond judicial review. Although Mursi later withdrew this presidential decree following immense public pressure, the decisions taken under it--including Mahmud's sacking--were protected under the constitution that came into force in December. Mahmud was replaced by the current prosecutor general, Talaat Abdullah.
Judge Sana Khalil announced, "The court ruled that the president's decision to sack Judge Abdel Meguid Mahmud is void and orders the minister of Justice to reinstate him."
Commenting on the decision, chairman of the Egyptian Judges Club, Ahmed Al-Zind, described this as "a victory, not just for the judiciary, but the Egyptian people."
Speaking exclusively to Asharq Al-Awsat, Zind stressed that Mahmud's sacking by President Mursi had been illegal, describing it as an "insult" to all Egyptians.
He emphasized that the decision by the court of appeal to reinstate the prosecutor general demonstrates that Egypt is not being governed according to "dreams, delusions and personal whims, nor by a ruling gang or clique."
As for rivals playing down the importance of this decision, Zind stressed that those taking this approach are "unimportant." He added, "This is not a battle, nor are they a match for the judiciary."
He said, "We know that this judgment is not the end of the road, but it has found a special place in the heart of every Egyptian. Every Egyptian takes joy and satisfaction [in this decision] in the midst of many things that have changed and gotten worse. This judgment demonstrates that the Egyptian judiciary does not bend and is not afraid to make the right decision."
He added, "This judgment has also demonstrated, to the entire world, that the proud Egyptian judiciary remains in good health."
As for what will happen now in Egypt, with two prosecutors general present on the judicial scene, Zind told Asharq Al-Awsat, "The judiciary said, very clearly, that the decision to sack the prosecutor general [Mahmud] has been annulled, while the presidential decree appointing a second prosecutor general has also been annulled. Therefore, everything based on [the presidential decree] is no longer in effect."
Zind also criticized the new Egyptian constitution, which President Mursi signed into law in December, saying, "A constitution that has been drafted overnight and that includes special articles to benefit special figures, such as Abdel Meguid Mahmud or [Vice-President of the Supreme Constitutional Court] Tahani Al-Gabali ... is not a real constitution."
He added, "A constitution that has been drafted to deal with a specific issue or to settle scores is not a real constitution, and this constitution will be annulled, God willing."
Zind concluded his remarks by stressing that those attempting to discredit this judicial decision are playing a dangerous game, and called on the media to ignore their concerns.
He said, "Our joy at this decision distracts us from all the other frivolous technical issues, and even if they challenge this ruling, it will remain."
|Egypt court orders reinstatement of prosecutor|
|An Egyptian court on Wednesday overturned a decision by President Mohamed Mursi to sack prosecutor general Abdel Meguid Mahmoud and ordered his reinstatement, state media reported. The ruling by the appeals court will once again put the presidency on a collision course with the judiciary, while any enforcement of its terms remains trapped in a legal labyrinth.|
Mursi sacked Mahmud in November, in a decree that granted the president sweeping powers and placed his decisions beyond judicial review. Mahmud was replaced by current prosecutor general, Talaat Abdallah.
The decree was eventually repealed under immense street pressure, but the decisions stemming from it were protected by the constitution that was passed in December.
Wednesday’s ruling comes because the court believes that Mursi acted outside his executive jurisdiction in sacking Mahmud, but “it faces big obstacles,” said Khaled Abubakr, a prominent lawyer.
“There is a court decision that needs to be applied, but at the same time there is a decree that is protected by the constitution,” he told AFP.
The decision will intensify long-running tensions between the presidency and the judiciary which accuses Mursi of interfering in its independence.
“The solution is for a higher court, like the Supreme Constitutional Court, to rule on the crisis,” Abubakr said. “Legally, we now have two prosecutor generals."
Mahmud himself, in a statement, said he had not yet decided on what action to take but was “happy with the ruling, which stresses the independence of the judiciary.”
Mursi appointed current prosecutor Abdallah in December in one of a number of decisions that sidelined judges, sparking a judicial strike and mass rallies by the Islamist president’s opponents.
His actions triggered a nationwide outcry, with opposition forces calling it a “coup” and the judges saying it was a direct attack on the independence of the judiciary.
|Mursi warning stirs fears in Egypt opposition|
|[REUTERS] Egyptian President Mohamed Mursi threatened on Sunday to take unspecified steps to "protect this nation" after violent demonstrations against his , using vague but severe language that the opposition said heralded a crackdown.|
In remarks following outside the Brotherhood's Cairo headquarters on Friday, Mursi warned that "necessary measures" would be taken against any politicians shown to be involved in what he described as violence and rioting.
"If I am forced to do what is required to protect this nation, then I will do it. And I fear that I might be on the verge of doing it," Mursi said in a statement. He did not elaborate.
|Mursi warns opposition: yer gonna gittit|
|CAIRO - Egyptian President Mohamed Mursi threatened on Sunday to take unspecified steps to "protect this nation" after violent demonstrations against his Muslim Brotherhood, using vague but severe language that the opposition said heralded a crackdown.|
"If I am forced to do what is required to protect this nation, then I will do it. And I fear that I might be on the verge of doing it," Mursi said in a statement. He did not elaborate.
"They are very scary comments," said Khaled Dawoud, a spokesman for the National Salvation Front (NSF), an alliance of non-Islamist parties formed late last year to oppose Mursi.
"I can see language that is heading towards taking some suppressive measures," he added.
Dozens of people were hurt on Friday when several thousand supporters and opponents of the Brotherhood fought near the Islamist group's headquarters.
Dawoud said the NSF was not behind those protests, but added that some of its members may have decided to take part.
Mursi said everyone had the right to peaceful protest,
"I urge all political forces not to provide any political cover for acts of violence and rioting. I will not be happy if investigations prove the guilt of some politicians," he said in the remarks, which were published on his Twitter account.
"Some are using the media to incite violence and those whose involvement is proven will not escape punishment," he added. "Anyone who takes part in incitement is a partner in the crime."
He also spoke of attempts to portray the state as weak but said these had failed: "The apparatus of the state are recovering and can deter any law breaker," he added.
Exactly what new steps Mursi is considering became the subject of speculation.
In late January, he declared a state of emergency rule in three cities near the Suez Canal to combat a wave of violence there. A declaration of a state of emergency elsewhere is unlikely, said Yasser El-Shimy, Egypt analyst for the International Crisis Group, adding arrests were more probable.
|Egypt court allows policemen to grow beards|
|An Egyptian court ruled on Wednesday that policemen may grow beards, ending a decades-old convention barring them from making what is often seen here as a display of Islamic piety. Dozens of police officers were suspended from work in February for breaking the de facto ban on beards introduced under deposed President Hosni Mubarak. They had protested outside the Interior Ministry, calling on Islamist President Mohamed Mursi - who is bearded himself - to secure their reinstatement.|
Cairo’s High Administrative Court rejected a request by the Interior Ministry to let it suspend officers who defied the unwritten rule. “The court ruled ... that police officers have the right to grow beards,” judge Maher Abu el-Enin said.
Mubarak used the police to crush Islamist groups he saw as enemies of the state. During his rule, sporting any kind of beard precluded Egyptians from holding senior government posts.
Wednesday’s decision backed a similar ruling by a lower court and the decision makes the verdict final. The Interior Ministry’s spokesman was not immediately available to comment.
Men across Egyptian society wear beards, including many leftists, but the pressure for ending the police ban came from religious officers who wish to emulate the Prophet Muhammad.
The ruling is
Mursi said during his campaign for the presidency that he had no objection to members of the security forces growing beards.
|Egypt pound will not collapse: Presidential aide|
"I think it has reached a level of stability," he said. "So as long as it (depreciation) is going incrementally and in a way that is market-sensitive, then there is no harm in this."
Presidential adviser Haddad said of the Egyptian currency: "What we have to be very careful of is to (avoid) a drastic change, or a complete fall or collapse. And this is something we are not seeing in the foreseeable future and we hope that it will recover."
A black market in hard currency has sprung up in recent weeks due to a shortage of dollars, with street traders quoting the pound at more than 7 to the dollar compared to an official rate of 6.73.
Regulated foreign exchange bureaux are swamped by demand for dollars and cannot meet the demand, the head of the foreign exchange department at the Chambers of Commerce said.
A senior business leader affiliated with the ruling Muslim Brotherhood, Hassan Malek, told Reuters in an interview that people expected further devaluation of the pound.
"I'm not, of course, a technical (expert) but people expect a little bit of devaluation in the future," he said when asked whether he expected a further depreciation of the currency to help exports and tourism.
He said the economy was going through a very difficult period because the transition to democracy launched by the 2011 uprising that toppled former President Hosni Mubarak was not yet complete and institutions were not working fully.
Asked about such concerns, Haddad said: "When the situation starts to stabilise more on the political side, I believe the Egyptian pound will be even stronger."
There had been calls from the business community to change the exchange rate to boost the economy by improving exports and making Egypt more attractive for foreign investors, and those changes had now occurred, he said.
"Market forces will act on this and decide what is the best value for the Egyptian pound," Haddad added.
Egypt's central bank governor said late on Sunday he had no fears of dollarisation and added the bank had reduced the amounts offered at its U.S. dollar auctions in order to set aside hard currency for imports of crucial goods.
Foreign investors are eyeing Egyptian households' dollar holdings as a critical gauge of trust in the authorities. Investors are watching closely for evidence of a significant rise in ordinary Egyptians' dollar holdings.
"I am not worried about dollarisation," Hisham Ramez said in an interview with CBC channel late on Sunday. "Household dollarisation is at far lower rates than those that would scare one," he said.
In an attempt to control the rate of the pound's decline, Egypt's central bank introduced regular dollar auctions in December. Having initially offered sums of $75 million per auction, the bank has reduced the amounts sold. Last week it offered $40 million at each of its dollar sales.
Reserves have fallen to $13.6 billion, less than the $15 billion needed to cover three months worth of imports.
"Of course it's not something good, not something comfortable," Ramez said, adding he had taken steps to counter this such as prioritizing certain imports including foodstuffs, production machines and their spare parts, and fertilizers. He said speeding up measures to secure a $4.8 billion IMF loan Egypt has requested would help the reserves recover.
Mohamed el-Abyad said foreign exchange offices can only supply 20 percent of the dollars for which they receive orders.
|Diesel shortage pushes Egyptians to the brink|
"This has become part of my life. I come and wait for hours or days, depending on my luck," the chain-smoking bus driver said at a besieged gas station on Cairo's Suez High Road, wrapped in a scarf and thick coat for the long ordeal. "At the start it used to upset me a lot but now I've kind of given up."
Diesel supplies are drying up as a cash-strapped government struggles to cap a mounting bill for subsidies it has promised the IMF it will reform to secure an elusive $4.8 billion loan desperately needed to keep a sagging economy afloat.
The situation appears near breakdown with growing shortages, unsustainable subsidies and foreign exchange reserves running out, raising the risk that fuel bottlenecks lead to food shortages and pose a risk to political stability.
Foreign reserves are down below $15 billion, less than three months' imports, despite deposits from Qatar and Turkey. The Egyptian pound has lost 8 percent of its value this year and a black market has emerged for hard currency.
The nation's strategic reserve of diesel fuel is down to three days' supply, the official MENA news agency quoted a government official as saying last week. Bakeries that use diesel to make staple subsidized bread have been told to keep 10 days' fuel supply but not all have the capacity.
The Muslim Brotherhood-led government of President Mohamed Mursi this week postponed for up to three months a rationing system for subsidized fuel due to start in April in what looks like an attempt to avoid upsetting voters before parliamentary elections due that month.
But reforms cannot be delayed for long, economists say.
"Fuel shortages are a symptom of the strains on Egypt's unsustainable subsidy system," said Simon Kitchen, an economist at EFG-Hermes in Cairo.
Two government measures have aggravated the problem. In December, the subsidy on 95-octane petrol used by the wealthiest Egyptians was scrapped. That drove some motorists down-market to buy lower-grade fuel, raising the demand for subsidized 92-octane gasoline.
The situation is so serious that Mursi held an emergency meeting with ministers about it on Tuesday night and instructed the energy minister to ensure sufficient supply, according to presidential spokesman Yasser Ali.
Until Tuesday evening, when the diesel shortage became the number one topic of television and radio talk-shows, the government seemed to be in denial.
"There is no shortage," Kamal said. "There is a crisis in the distribution of Solar, not in the availability of it."
Asked whether a shortage of hard currency was constraining fuel imports, he said: "Financial resources are still available for imports but they must be reserved for the most important priorities."
To drivers and tour operators, the result is the same.
Khaled el-Manawi, a senior board member of the Egyptian travel agents' association, said the government was harming his industry, already hard hit by political turmoil, by withdrawing subsidized fuel from tourist boats.
Businessman George Bishoy, who owns a fashion accessories store in the affluent Cairo suburb of Heliopolis, said his business had suffered a lot from delays in the delivery of imported goods.
The daily al-Ahram quoted drivers complaining about the emergence of a black market in which a liter of diesel is sold at double the normal price.
The spokesman of the independent drivers' union, Tarek el-Bahary, told Reuters: "The Solar problem is devastating. Drivers are suffering daily and the elected president has failed to solve this crisis."
"The number of trucks has not increased, the number of trips has not increased but the government is unable to provide the Solar and unable to come up with creative solutions to solve the problem," he said.
|Islamists rally for Egypt's Mursi in Cairo|
Repeating the pattern of recent weeks, Mursi's opponents rallied again on Friday, this time gathering outside El-Quba, one of the presidential palaces in the northern suburbs of Cairo. The activists dubbed it "Checkmate Friday".
The protest, which drew several hundred people by afternoon descended into violence as night fell. State media reported that "troublemakers" had thrown rocks and petrol bombs. Security forces unleashed tear gas and water cannon, it said.
The pro-Mursi rally was called by a hardline Salafi Islamist group, Al-Gama'a al-Islamiya, in what it described as a protest under the banner "Together Against Violence".
The Muslim Brotherhood and its Freedom and Justice Party said it backed Friday's rally in a symbolic way but did not mobilize supporters for the event, meaning the numbers were smaller than at previous Islamist protests.
Trouble also flared outside of Cairo on Friday. In al-Mahalla al-Kubra, an industrial town, protesters set fire to a local government building, state TV reported. In Alexandria, the security forces briefly fought protesters when they tried to force their way into a police station, witnesses said.