Egyptian government, protesters hit stalemate

Anti-government protesters continue to occupy Cairo's Tahrir Square after two weeks of often violent and bloody demonstrations.

Demonstrators remain at Tahrir Square as some businesses reopen in Cairo

Anti-government protesters continued to occupy Cairo's Tahrir Square following two weeks of demonstrations that have led to an estimated 300 deaths.

"There are people now living in tents, under tarps, food being sold," said CBC's David Common from Cairo. 

"Those protesters are still very exhilarated. The moment you walk into  the square, people are cheering you on. Music is being played. There's a real sense of trying to get the energy up and trying to keep people motivated."

Despite the negotiations, many protesters are determined to remain in the square until President Hosni Mubarak steps down. Mubarak, who has ruled for nearly 30 years, has said he will not run in the September presidential election, but has refused to resign immediately.  

"So we're at this political stalemate," Common said.  

Soldiers and tanks remain in the streets of Cairo, but some banks and stores, closed following the days of political upheaval, have reopened in parts of the city. Traffic also reappeared along roads.

With the situation seeming to settle down in Tahrir Square, the new Egyptian cabinet on Monday promised a 15 per cent pay raise to some six million public employees. The new cabinet was brought in as one of Mubarak's concessions to the protesters.

Anti-government protesters read slogans in Cairo's Tahrir Square on Monday. ((David Common/CBC))

On Sunday, Vice-President Omar Suleiman convened negotiations with a variety of opposition groups, legal experts and business figures.

Suleiman offered concessions including granting press freedom and rolling back police powers. But protesters in the square said they remained unsatisfied.

"Our main objective is for Mubarak to step down," said student Mohammed Eid. "We don't accept any other concessions."

The Egyptian government pledged Monday to investigate official corruption and election fraud.

Judicial officials promised to start questioning three former ministers and a senior ruling party official on corruption charges on Tuesday.

Egypt's state-run news agency reported that Mubarak ordered the country's parliament and its highest appellate court to re-examine lower-court rulings disqualifying hundreds of ruling party lawmakers for campaign and ballot irregularities that were ignored by electoral officials.

U.S. President Barack Obama said Monday that Egypt is moving toward a way out of the political crisis.

"Obviously, Egypt has to negotiate a path, and I think they're making progress," he said.

Obama did not elaborate in response to a reporter's question on the talks taking place in Egypt.

Death toll

A U.S.-based human rights groups said Monday the death toll from the clashes in Egypt has hit at least 297.

Doctors treat the injured in Cairo's Tahrir Square on Monday. The army has restricted medical supplies from being brought into the square, which is being occupied by protesters. ((David Common/CBC))
The count by Human Rights Watch was based on interviews with hospital doctors, visits to emergency rooms and morgue inspections in several Egyptian cities.

Egypt's Health Ministry has not published a complete death toll.

Human Rights Watch said the toll included 232 people dead in Cairo, with 52 dead in Alexandria and 13 in Suez.

The toll included 15 people killed in clashes in Tahrir Square on Feb. 2 and 3 between pro- and anti-Mubarak groups.

Google executive released

Also on Monday, Wael Ghonim, an Egyptian who said he set up the Facebook page that helped touch off the street protests, was released after 12 days of detention.

Ghonim, who runs Google Inc.'s Middle Eastern and African marketing, called the protests "the revolution of the youth of the internet and now the revolution of all Egyptians."

Ghonim said security officials called him a traitor. "Anyone with good intentions is the traitor because being evil is the norm," he said Monday.

"If I was a traitor, I would have stayed in my villa in the Emirates and made good money and said like others, 'Let this country go to hell.' But we are not traitors."

With files from The Associated Press