Suleiman: Mubarak is our father

Vice-president says those calling for president Mubarak to leave are not part of Egypt's culture.

    Tensions are escalating on the streets of Egypt as pro-and anti-government demonstrators clash [AFP]

    Egypt's vice-president has said protesters calling for the departure of Hosni Mubarak, the president, are not "part of the Egyptian culture", saying "we all respect Mubarak as father and leader".

    Omar Suleiman made the comments during an interview with state television on Thursday, in which he also said recent violence in Cairo, the capital, could have been the result of a "conspiracy".

    "We will look into [the violence], into the fact it was a conspiracy," he said.

    At least 13 people have been killed in clashes in Tahrir (Liberation) Square, central Cairo, as violence continues between pro-government groups and pro-democracy protesters.

    Suleiman called on the protesters to end their 10-day demonstration, saying the government had now met their demands for reform, adding that the call for Mubarak to step down would be a "call for chaos".

    "End your sit-in. Your demands have been answered," said Omar Suleiman.

    'Crime of war'

    He said constitutional change would take at least 70 days, and that a parliament was needed in order to look at it.

    "The January 25 movement wanted to dissolve the parliament but we can't do that if we are going to amend the constitution," he said.

    "We have to look into the future of Egypt, who will run this country, who will lead Egypt in the next six years, who will represent the country?"

    But a pro-democracy activist dismissed Suleiman's speech, saying it was all a "ridiculous lie".

    "From the beginning we were saying we want the whole regime to be out," she told Al Jazeera.

    "There are thugs and bullies preventing us from getting medical and food supplies. It's outrageous. We are not interested in anything they say unless it is that they are leaving now.

    "Especially after the brutality ... we cannot accept this. This is a crime of war."

    However Diaa Rashwan, a political analyst at the Al Ahram Centre for Political and Strategic studies, praised Suleiman for accepting dialogue with opposition forces, including the Muslim Brotherhood.

    "Suleiman makes the process of political reform conditional on the outcome of the dialogue with the opposition.

    "This indicates his seriousness about holding sincere dialogue with opposition forces," he told the Reuters news agency.

    But Mohamed Katatni, a senior Muslim Brotherhood member, said the only way Egyptians would accept dialogue with Suleiman is "after Mubarak's departure, when he steps down".

    PM apology

    Suleiman's interview comes after Ahmad Shafiq, the Egyptian prime minister, apologised for the violence in Tahrir square, saying it could not be allowed to recur.

    Like Suleiman, he also said calls for Mubarak to step down were "unacceptable", but said that dialogue with all opposition groups will begin.

    Asked if this includes the Muslim Brotherhood, banned from political activities in Egypt, Shafiq said: "No one will be excluded from the dialogue".

    Egypt's cabinet meanwhile, has denied that it had a role in mobilising supporters of Mubarak against pro-democracy protesters in Tahrir Square.

    "To accuse the government of mobilising this is a real fiction. That would defeat our object of restoring the calm," Magdy Rady, a cabinet spokesman told Reuters news agency.

    "We were surprised with all these actions. The government will take the measures it can to identify who was behind this and try to deal with this."

    Egypt has been in turmoil since last week with pro-democracy activists pressing on Mubarak to immediately step down.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and agencies


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