Egypt military dismantles Mubarak regime

Egypt's new military regime dismantled ousted strongman Hosni Mubarak's former regime on Sunday, dissolving parliament, suspending the constitution and promising a referendum on political reform.

While the civilian cabinet met for the first time since Mubarak's downfall, the generals made it clear where authority now lies, issuing a proclamation setting a six-month timetable to prepare democratic elections.

The latest moves spelled the end of the political system that underpinned Mubarak's 30-year rule which ended on Friday when he was driven from power after an 18-day pro-democracy uprising.

The Supreme Council of the Armed Forces' "communiqu?umber five" said it would "run the affairs of the country on a temporary basis for six months or until the end of parliamentary and presidential elections."

The communiqu? read on state television – said the military would form a panel to rewrite the constitution, which effectively locked down power for Mubarak's National Democratic Party (NDP), and submit it to a referendum.

The dissolved legislative body was seen as illegitimate following elections last year that were marred by widespread allegations of fraud and gave the NDP an overwhelming majority.

The statement also confirmed that the chairman of the supreme military council, Mubarak's defense minister Field Marshal Mohammed Hussein Tantawi, is now de facto head of state and represents Egypt on the international stage.

The moves came as the famed Egyptian Museum announced that several priceless artifacts had been looted during the initial unrest sparked by the revolt and the country's widely hated police force marched in support of the uprising.

Egypt's minister of state for antiquities, Zahi Hawass, said that during the revolt several ancient treasures had been stolen from the Egyptian Museum, including a statue of the renowned boy king Tutankhamun.

The objects missing from the famed museum include "a gilded wood statue of the 18th Dynasty king Tutankhamun being carried by a goddess" and parts of another statue showing him harpooning, he said.

Looters had broken into the museum off Cairo's Tahrir Square on January 28, during clashes between protesters and riot police who used tear gas and water cannon to try to crush the revolt before being driven from the streets.

On Sunday, Egyptian troops fired warning shots and scuffles broke out when policemen protested to restore their reputation and win pay rises after they found themselves on the wrong side of the uprising.

One policeman's teeth were smashed in during the fight with soldiers outside the interior ministry, where around 1,500 members of the force called for the despised former interior minister Habib al-Adly to be publicly executed.

Troops had fired over the heads of the protesters, some of whom were in police uniform, as the crowd chanted at their former boss: "Habib, you know you will be executed in the public square!"

Egypt's police are broadly despised and seen as brutal and corrupt, while the military has been embraced by the anti-regime protesters.

But the police protesting on Sunday insisted that they had been ordered to deal harshly with the protests and were underpaid by their government masters.

Sunday's cabinet meeting came a day after the resignation of the highly unpopular information minister Anas al-Fiki, who was allegedly behind a media campaign that presented the protesters as foreign agents.

Fiki, Adly and sacked prime minister Ahmed Nazif have all been banned from leaving the country while they are investigated over graft allegations.

The dissolution of Mubarak's regime was reflected in the empty space outside the cabinet chamber where his portrait had hung for three decades.

Prime Minister Ahmed Shafiq said, however, that Mubarak remained at his residence in the Sinai resort town of Sharm el-Sheikh.

Mubarak appointed the cabinet – made up mostly of veteran military men – in the opening days of the revolt in a failed bid to appease the protesters.

Tantawi on Sunday met new Interior Minister Mahmud Wagdy, in order to get the police back on the streets as quickly as possible.

In the meantime, military police were directing cars through Tahrir Square, the epicenter of the revolt.

Hundreds of thousands of people who had occupied the emblematic square had returned home by Sunday after a massive volunteer clean-up effort saw people from all walks of life sweeping the streets and collecting rubbish.

"All my dreams have come true," said Nur Khersha, a 24-year-old student who slept in the square on Saturday night.

"Mubarak left. We will complete our cleaning, polish the stones, and then we will leave the square as clean as it was."

(Published by - February 14, 2011)

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