Egypt's military calls for end to strikes, protests

Egypt's ruling military council calls on labour leaders to stop strikes and protests unleashed by the uprising that ousted Hosni Mubarak from the presidency to allow a sense of normalcy to return to the country.
Military police surround remaining protesters as they try to clear Tahrir Square in Cairo. ((Hussein Malla/Associated Press))

Egypt's ruling military council called on labour leaders to stop strikes and protests unleashed by the uprising that ousted Hosni Mubarak from the presidency to allow a sense of normalcy to return to the country.

A military spokesman read a communiqué on state television Monday as thousands of state employees, from ambulance drivers to police and transport workers, protested to demand better pay and conditions.

The communique said Egypt needed a quieter climate so the military can run the nation's affairs at this "critical stage," and eventually hand over the reins of power to an elected and civilian administration. The statement also warned that strikes and protests hurt the country's security and economy, and gave a chance to "irresponsible parties" to commit "illegal acts." It did not elaborate.

By early afternoon Monday, a few dozen stalwarts remained, standing in one corner of the square and yelling for the release of political prisoners. The remaining protesters said they won't leave until all those detained during the revolt are released.

CBC's Margaret Evans, reporting from Cairo, said traffic is moving through the area, and that an army of people with paint cans is trying to clean up the square.  

The Central Bank of Egypt ordered banks across the country closed following a strike by employees of the National Bank, the largest state bank.

Meanwhile, Egypt's ambassador to the United States, Sameh Shoukry, said Mubarak, 82, was "possibly in somewhat of bad health," providing the first word about him since being ousted Friday.

Two Cairo newspapers said Mubarak was refusing to take medication, depressed and repeatedly passing out at his residence in the Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh. There was no immediate confirmation of the reports.

The Armed Forces Supreme Council is now the official ruler after Mubarak handed it power on Friday. It consists of the commanders of each military branch, the chief of staff and Defence Minister Hussein Tantawy.

The military rulers have requested that Britain and other European countries freeze assets held by members of Mubarak's former regime. On Monday, Britain's foreign secretary said European Union finance ministers are discussing the request and would freeze accounts if there is any evidence of "illegality or misuse of state assets."

On Sunday, military rulers dissolved the country's parliament and suspended the constitution — two key demands of some of the protesters. In a communiqué, the military leaders said they will run the country for six months, or until presidential and parliament elections can be held.

The military leadership also said it would form a committee to amend the constitution and set the rules for a popular referendum to endorse the amendments.

The coalition behind the protests has demanded the lifting of emergency law; creation of a presidential council, made up of a military representative and two "trusted personalities"; the dissolving of the ruling party-dominated parliament; and the formation of a broad-based unity government and a committee to either amend or completely rewrite the constitution.

With files from The Associated Press