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Middle East
Army urges Egyptians to end strikes
Military council calls on workers to play their role in reviving the economy after almost three weeks of turmoil.
Last Modified: 14 Feb 2011 16:28 GMT
The army has told the remaining protesters in Tahrir to leave and allow life to return to normal [Al Jazeera] 

Egypt's military council has renewed a call to workers to end a wave of strikes and play their role in reviving the economy after nearly three weeks of mass protests that led to the ousting of president Hosni Mubarak.

In "Communique No 5", read out on state television on Monday, a spokesman for the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces called for national solidarity and criticised strike action that has severely disrupted the country's economy.

"Noble Egyptians see that these strikes, at this delicate time, lead to negative results," he said.

The communique came as thousands of state employees, from ambulance drivers to police and
transport workers, protested on Monday to demand better pay and conditions.

Hundreds of public transport workers demonstrated outside the television and state radio building. Across the Nile river in Giza, hundreds of ambulance drivers staged a protest, also to demand better pay and permanent jobs.

Thousands in Tahrir

Elsewhere, about 2,000 people gathered in Cairo's Tahrir (Liberation) Square around noon, halting traffic, with most of them protesting against the country's police force.

Click here for more of Al Jazeera's special coverage 

Policemen were holding a separate protest, some of them marching towards the interior ministry on Monday.

They want better pay and are trying to clear the name of the hated police force, which was accused of using excessive force during the deadly clashes in the first days of the uprising.

Some of the police demonstrators carried portraits of policemen killed in the clashes, with one placard saying "These are victims of the regime too".

Earlier in the day, pro-democracy protesters in the square said they had been told by the army to leave or face arrest.

Meanwhile, the army ordered Al Jazeera and other international media outlets to stop filming in the square.

Meeting activists

As the protests and strikes continued, two online activists said on Monday that they had discussed reforms with the military.

"We met the army ... to understand their point of view and lay out our views," Google executive Wael Ghonim and blogger Amr Salama said in a note on a pro-democracy website that helped launch the revolt.

They said the military council, which suspended the constitution and dissolved parliament on Sunday, vowed to rewrite the constitution within 10 days and put it to a referendum within two months, in line with the protesters' demands for democratic change.

The council had previously said the military would be in charge "for a temporary period of six months or until the end of elections to the upper and lower houses of parliament, and presidential elections".

Inspired by the success of the 18 days of popular protests that forced Mubarak to end his 30 years in power on Friday, workers across Egypt have begun to agitate for better deals.

Military 'concerned'

The protests prompted officials to make Monday an unscheduled bank holiday. Banks will reopen on Wednesday, because Tuesday is also a public holiday.


'After Mubarak: The new normal' Click each photo for description [Evan Hill]

"I think the military is concerned that this could turn into a series of protests across the country, " Al Jazeera's James Bays, reporting from Cairo, said.

"If that happened, the only way they could stop them would probably be to use force.

And if they use force, that would end the respect and the legitimacy the army has in the eyes of the ordinary people."

Protest organisers have called for a "Victory March" to be held across the country on Friday.

There have also been reports of protests, sit-ins and strikes at the stock exchange, textile firms, media organisations, steel firms, the postal service, railways and the health ministry.

"Finally we have been encouraged to come out and speak," Hala Fawzi, a 34-year-old who protested on Sunday outside the offices of the state-owned insurance company where she works for $20 a month, said. "We want equality," she said.

But after three weeks of economic dislocation which has seen tourists leave the country and trade and factories facing difficulties, millions of Egyptians are anxious to start earning again in order to survive.

Source:
Al Jazeera and agencies
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