Egypt, Syria rallies slam Iraq war

Around four hundred demonstrators have turned out in Cairo to voice their opposition to the Iraq war two years after the US-led invasion, reports said.

    Anti-Mubarak Egyptians taped their mouths in the protest

    "Leave Iraq to the Iraqis," read banners brandished by around 200 supporters of Egyptian President Husni Mubarak's ruling National Democratic Party (NDP) on Sunday.
    "Long live Egypt, long live Mubarak," they chanted. A tightly knit police cordon separated that group from 200 anti-Mubarak protesters also massed on Cairo's central Tahrir Square.
    "Occupation is not freedom," read colourful handwritten banners.
    "Long live resistance, jihad is the only way," the protesters chanted. 

    Critical slogans

    The anti-government crowd began shouting slogans critical of the Egyptian president, with marchers donning stickers reading "No to Mubarak".

    "The National Democratic Party is a coward, Mubarak you're a US spy," a man chanted through a loud hailer.

    "We want free and
    fair elections, we want real changes to
    the constitution"

    Abd al-Hamid Barakat,
    Egyptian Labour Party Secretary-General

    "We want free and fair elections, we want real changes to the constitution to allow every candidate to present himself on an equal footing," secretary-general of Egypt's Labour Party, Abd al-Hamid Barakat, said. 
    "We want Mubarak to lift the emergency law," he added, referring to the restrictive law that has been in place since Mubarak came to power almost 25 years ago.
    Mubarak asked lawmakers late last month to amend the constitution to allow multi-candidate presidential elections.
    But opposition parties charge that the amendments still greatly curb the possibility of opposition parties fielding candidates as they must first be approved by parliament which is dominated by NDP MPs. 

    Pro-Asad rallies

    Meanwhile, in Syria, hundreds of thousands took part in two demonstrations on Sunday to show their support for President Bashar al-Asad and his policies in neighbouring Lebanon, the official Sana news agency reported.

    Syrians pledge their loyalty to
    al-Asad in the city of Hama

    Demonstrators in Hama and Suwayda, at the north and south of Damascus, turned out to support "Al-Asad's policies and his reasonable positions concerning regional and international developments", Sana said.

    Earlier this month, al-Asad agreed to withdraw Syria's estimated 14,000 troops from Lebanon, as demanded by UN Security Council Resolution 1559, passed in September, aimed at ensuring the political independence of Syria's smaller neighbour. 
    The planned Syrian withdrawal was announced in the face of mounting international pressure following the assassination of Lebanese former prime minister Rafiq al-Hariri in a Beirut car bombing on 14 February. 
    Syrian pressure

    The Lebanese opposition blamed Damascus for the killing, which has led to a political crisis with the pro-Damascus government. 
    The Syrian army completed the first stage of its planned pullback ahead of schedule on Thursday, with some 4000 troops having returned home, as more symbols of its near-30-year presence in Lebanon were hauled down.

    Iraq-Jordanian ties have taken a
    nose-dive over al-Hilla bombing

    Under mounting pressure, a second phase of the withdrawal affecting the remaining troops is to be worked out in a meeting in early April of Syrian-Lebanese military commission. 

    Jordan-Iraq spat
    In a separate development, Jordan recalled its top diplomat in Iraq for consultations amid a wave of anti-Jordanian protests in the neighbouring country, Jordanian Foreign Minister Hani Mulki told journalists. 
    Iraq reciprocated later on Sunday saying it was also temporarily recalling its ambassador to Jordan amid growing tensions between the two countries. 

    The decision came two days after a protest in which Shia protesters raised an Iraqi flag over the Jordanian embassy in Baghdad.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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