Egypt's army pressed for more reforms

Egypt's main coalition of youth and opposition groups says it wants to hold weekly demonstrations, even though the country's military rulers have promised reforms in the wake of President Hosni Mubarak's ouster.

New administration should lift hated emergency law, say opposition groups

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Egypt's main coalition of youth and opposition groups said Saturday that it wants to hold weekly demonstrations, even though the country's military rulers have promised reforms in the wake of President Hosni Mubarak's ouster.

A wave of mass protests that began Jan. 25 ended on Friday with Mubarak's resignation when more than a million people took to the streets across the country. 

On Saturday, the jubilant mood in Cairo's Tahrir, or Liberation Square, carried into the night. The square was the epicentre of the 18-day national uprising.

Although the number of protesters had thinned, large crowds remained. Many people continued to demand an end to emergency law, which began when the now-former president came to power three decades ago. Emergency law has largely been used to stifle political dissent.

Activists using speakers' corners also said they wanted to hear more details about elections and a new constitution.

Egyptians dance and wave flags in Tahrir Square on Saturday after bringing down President Hosni Mubarak. ((Khalil Hamra/Associated Press))
Earlier Saturday, Egypt's military leaders said they were committed to abiding by international agreements and eventually handing over power to an elected civilian administration.

The army announced it would "look to guarantee the peaceful transition of power in the framework of a free, democratic system which allows an elected, civilian power to govern the country to build a democratic, free state."

The statement was read by a senior officer on state television.

Mubarak handed over power to the military on Friday. The announcement was made live on state TV by a grim Vice-President Omar Suleiman at about 6 p.m. local time.

Mubarak's departure has raised concerns in neighbouring Israel, which signed a peace accord with Egypt in 1979 and relies heavily on cheap energy provided by a natural gas pipeline in the Sinai Peninsula that was disrupted by an explosion last week.

On Saturday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu welcomed the statement by Egypt's military that it will honour the peace treaty between the two neighbours. Netanyahu called the treaty "a cornerstone of peace and stability in the Middle East."

Obama pledges support

U.S. President Barack Obama also welcomed the commitment to the peace treaty and pledged U.S. assistance and financial support as Egypt moves toward free and fair elections, the White House said.

Now, U.S. officials are closely monitoring Middle East hot spots could become the next focal points for protests after last month's popular uprising in Tunisia and Mubarak's departure.

Obama spoke to Saturday to King Abdullah II of Jordan, who has taken some steps toward reform following demonstrations in his country.

In conversations as well with British Prime Minister David Cameron and Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the White House said Obama stressed he believed democracy would bring more, not less, stability to the region.

Meanwhile, Egypt's state and pro-government media, loyal to Mubarak until the end, have changed their tune since his resignation. They pledged to pay more attention to ordinary Egyptians, and State TV promised to be more truthful in its reporting.

Also on Saturday, the military relaxed a nighttime curfew, moving its start time to midnight in another move aimed at appeasing protesters.

Travel restrictions on old regime's officials

The military high command has also banned current and ex-government officials from travelling abroad without permission, although there are indications that the current government appointed by Mubarak will continue to operate until a new one is formed.

Reuters cited military sources as saying that former Egyptian information minister Anas El-Fekky had been placed under house arrest. The sources did not give a reason. Fekky had been close to the outgoing president.

In Cairo, burnt-out vehicles were being towed away and Egyptian soldiers swept the streets and cleared barricades to open at least one road leading to Tahrir Square.

Scores of people using brooms were quickly removing debris that had accumulated over the past three weeks, said CBC's David Common.

"Egyptians are saying, 'We've cleaned up our government, now we're going to clean up our streets,'" he said.

Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak resigned Friday on the 18th day of anti-government protests. ((Jason Reed/Reuters))

About 300 people died in the uprising, according to the United Nations and human rights groups. Close to 4,000 people were injured in clashes between demonstrators and regime supporters.

More than a million people took to the streets across Egypt on the last day of Mubarak's hold on power, gathering for what was dubbed the "Day of Departure."

The 82-year-old former leader, meanwhile, remained with his family in the Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh, according to local officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

With files from The Associated Press