Top News: Egyptian Politicians Renounce Violence at Crisis Talks

Egypt Dialogue Reuters.jpg

Egypt’s feuding politicians renounced violence on Thursday after being summoned by the country’s most influential Muslim scholar to talks to end the deadliest unrest since President Mohamed Morsi took power. 


Egypt politicians renounce violence at crisis talks
Egypt’s feuding politicians renounced violence on Thursday after being summoned by the country’s most influential Muslim scholar to talks to end the deadliest unrest since President Mohamed Morsi took power. It remains to be seen whether the pledge to end confrontation will halt a week of bloodshed on the streets that killed nearly 60 people. Opposition groups did not cancel new demonstrations scheduled for Friday. But participants at the meeting, including leaders of Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood and its secular rivals, described their joint statement as a major step towards ending a conflict that has made the most populous Arab state seem all but ungovernable two years after an uprising toppled autocrat Hosni Mubarak. The meeting was convened by Sheikh Ahmed al-Tayyeb, head of the thousand-year-old al-Azhar university and mosque, one of the few institutions still seen as neutral in a society that has become increasingly polarized. Activist Alaa Abdel Fattah criticized the agreement, describing it as political cover for the Ministry of Interior’s crimes. About 150 members of the Nour Party resigned over meeting with the NSF. To see the Arabic text of the Azhar document, click here. [Reuters, Egypt Independent, DNE, Shorouk (Arabic), Watan (Arabic), AMAY (Arabic), 1/31/2013]

Nour Party, National Salvation Front determine national dialogue agenda
The Salafi Nour Party and the National Salvation Front have determined an agenda for the national dialogue, namely to amend the contentious articles of the Constitution and to dismiss the prosecutor general. They also called, during a joint news conference attended by Wafd Party President Al-Sayed al-Badawy, for stopping the war of words between the various political groups. ElBaradei called for an immediate meeting between Morsi, the defense and interior ministers, the Freedom and Justice Party, the NSF, and Salafi parties “to take urgent steps to stop the violence and start a serious dialogue.” The Salafi Watan Party and the Muslim Brotherhood welcomed ElBaradei’s call for dialogue, but Youssry Hammad, vice-president of the Watan Party, criticized the initiative that demands a committee tasked with amending controversial articles of Egypt’s new national charter. [Egypt Independent, Ahram Online, DNE, 1/31/2013]

Qandil promises CSF officers right to enforce demonstration law
The Justice Ministry has completed a draft law regulating the right to demonstration. The draft stipulates that the Interior Ministry should be notified of the date of a demonstration five days in advance. It also would grant the police the right to use force and to reject or postpone a demonstration. The draft is to be put forward to a community dialogue. Prime Minister Hesham Qandil promised Central Security Forces officers Wednesday that they would be given the right to enforce the demonstration law. He met with the officers in at their camp in Darrasa district to appease their anger for the death of their colleagues while securing the Port Said prison. [Egypt Independent, 1/31/2013]

Also of Interest:
Curfew in Port Said, Suez, and Ismailia reduced | Reuters
Opposition activists may call for early presidential elections at Friday protests | Egypt Independent
Shura Council summons interior, information ministers over security response | Egypt Independent, Shorouk (Arabic)


Court rejects appeal for blogger convicted of contempt of religion
An appeals court on Wednesday rejected blogger Alber Saber’s appeal against his three-year prison sentence for contempt of religion, upholding the controversial court ruling. Saber, a 27-year-old computer programming student from Cairo, faced charges of defaming both Islam and Christianity. Marg Misdemeanor Court found Saber guilty of “contempt of religion” on 12 December, after he allegedly posted segments online of the amateur film “Innocence of Muslims,” which had sparked protests around the Muslim world, state news agency MENA reported. [Egypt Independent, 1/30/2013]

Sharqiya court acquits security officials of revolution deaths
Zagazig Criminal Court acquitted eight security officials on Thursday accused of killing protesters in Sharqiya Governorate during the 2011 uprising. The defendants included Hussein Abu Shenaiq, the former head of the Sharqiya Security Directorate, and seven of his deputies. Before reading the verdict, the presiding judge said the defendants were scapegoats and had carried out their duty to secure police stations against attacks. [Egypt Independent, 1/31/2013]

Defendants in Port Said clashes detained pending investigations
Port Said prosecution ordered on Wednesday the detention of 15 defendants who are accused of instigating clashes over the past week. The defendants were deported to a public prison in Damietta on Saturday where they will be detained for four days pending investigations. The prosecution accused the defendants with "vandalizing public property, theft, killing two police officers and attacking police installations." Investigations were conducted amid tight security to protect the courts’ complex in Damietta. [Aswat Masriya, 1/31/2013]

Also of Interest:
Shura Council nullification lawsuit to be reviewed 10 Feb | Egypt Independent


Fitch downgrades Egypt sovereign rating, could cut further
Fitch Ratings cut Egypt’s sovereign credit rating Wednesday one notch, to B from B-plus, citing a wider budget deficit and instability caused by the country’s political transition. The downgrade reflects several factors, including a worsened fiscal position, Fitch said in a statement. "Egypt’s ‘B’ rating reflects a balance between short-term reserve pressure, political upheaval, a weak and deteriorating fiscal position and capital flight against our assumption that an [International Monetary Fund] program will be in place after the election," Fitch said. [Egypt Independent/Reuters, Ahram Online, 1/30/2013]

MOF reconsiders taxes
Meetings with the minister of finance have discussed amendments to the tax code, according to sources at Egypt’s Tax Authority. The first proposal was to decrease the rates of previous tax amendments and to remove clauses that have a negative effect on the general public. The second was to present a new draft of amended tax laws that would raise the tax exemption limit to EGP 15,000. Sources stated the amount of revenue collected by the government this year would reach EGP 15 bn, a decrease from the previous estimate of EGP 20 bn. [DNE, 1/30/2013]

Egypt’s pound devaluation has not reached an end
The Egyptian pound slipped further against the dollar at the Central Bank of Egypt’s (CBE) $50 million currency auction for local banks on Tuesday. On Wednesday, the official exchange rate reached 6.7 pounds per dollar. At this price, the pound has lost 7.5 per cent of its value against the dollar since the Central Bank began hold currency auctions at the end of December. Further devaluation is likely in the coming weeks and months, according to analysts. Experts estimate that the dollar will reach LE7.5 this year, but their forecast might be modified according to the political situation. [Ahram Online, 1/30/2013]

Also of Interest:
Morsi says he sees economy growing 5.5 percent in 2014 | Egypt Independent
Suez Canal fees to increase in May | Egypt Independent, Ahram Online
Eight governorates experience power outages | Egypt Independent, Ahram Online
In a difficult economy, tech startups offer hope | Egypt Independent
As new Central Bank governor, Ramez has big shoes to fill | Egypt Independent


Armed Forces right to arrest civilians is temporary
A military source said that the power of the Armed Forces to arrest civilians, outlined in a law approved by President Mohamed Morsi on Wednesday, is temporary, lasting until the results of the parliamentary elections are announced. The new law would gives the defense minister the power to determine the location of the deployment. “The size and numbers of forces that will be handling security has not as yet been specified,” the source told al-Masry al-Youm. [Egypt Independent, 1/31/2013]


Shura Council committee prevents journalists from attending meeting
The Shura Council’s Arab Affairs, Defense and National Security Committee prevented parliament reporters from attending the committee meeting on Thursday. Atef Helmy information minister and Mohamed Ibrahim interior minister were scheduled to attend. “The committee decided that in order for MPs to be able to speak freely about the situation, the journalists should not be allowed to attend,” said committee head Reda Fahmy, adding that regulations give MPs the right to hold closed committee meetings. [Egypt Independent, 1/31/2013]

Brotherhood about to legalize status, says minister
The Muslim Brotherhood is about to legalize its status, Insurance and Social Affairs Minister Nagwa Khalil said Wednesday, noting that the new NGOs law does not prevent any party or group from forming an association, as long as it is funded domestically. “If funded from abroad, it needs a permit so as to make sure the funds are spent on the community,” she said. The National Salvation Front opposition coalition has demanded that President Mohamed Morsi take unspecified legal action against the Muslim Brotherhood group. Protests in Cairo and other governorates have been common since the group climbed to the helm of power. Protesters have called for the group’s dissolution, saying its existence is illegal under Law 84/2002. [Egypt Independent, 1/30/2013]

Dozens protest in solidarity with Black Bloc; four alleged members arrested
Dozens protested at the High Court in downtown Cairo Wednesday to reject the prosecutor general’s decision to arrest members of the Black Bloc group on charges of terrorism. Prosecutor General Talaat Abdallah ordered Tuesday the arrest of all members of the group, as well as whoever joins or puts on their uniform, claiming the group performs “terrorist” actions. Security forces arrested four masked people whom they said were Black Bloc members, while they were on their way with other demonstrators to the prosecutor general’s office to protest. Three of the suspects are being held inside the court, while the fourth was taken into a police vehicle that left to an unknown location. [Egypt Independent, Ahram Online, 1/31/2013]

Also of Interest:
Canal cities organize nightly football matches to defy curfew | Egypt Independent
Anti-sexual harassment meeting attacked | DNE
Police and protesters clash in Kafr Sheikh for 3rd day, night | Ahram Online, DNE
Doctors discuss labor law | DNE


US aid to Egypt must continue despite unrest, says John Kerry
Ending US aid to Egypt could contribute to "chaos" in the country, future secretary of state, John Kerry, has warned. President Obama has requested almost $2 billion in aid for Egypt, about 80 per cent of which is for the military, and Congress seems willing to comply, for the time being at least. "A hold up of aid might contribute to the chaos that may ensue because of their collapsing economy…their biggest problem is a collapsing economy,” Kerry told New York-based NBC News. [Ahram Online, 1/31/2013]

Morsi fails to secure aid for Egypt, gets only advice – German magazine
President Mohamed Morsi failed on his brief Wednesday visit to Berlin to persuade Chancellor of Germany Angela Merkel to reduce Egypt’s €240 million debt to Germany, the German Der Spiegel magazine reported on Wednesday. On its website, the magazine stated that Morsi "is unlikely to be satisfied with the outcome of his visit to Berlin", adding that Merkel "failed to respond" as Morsi would have liked. Merkel refrained from any mention of forgiving Egypt’s debt, which Germany had earlier alluded to. [Aswat Masriya, 1/31/2013]

Photo: Reuters

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