- Egyptian opposition to shun Mursi's national dialogue
- Myanmar government apologises to monks over mine protest injuries
- Clinton to testify on Benghazi attack report - U.S. lawmaker
Posted: 07 Dec 2012 07:08 PM PST
CAIRO (Reuters) - President Mohamed Mursi was expected to press ahead on Saturday with talks on ways to end Egypt's worst crisis since he took office even though the country's main opposition leaders have vowed to stay away.
Cairo and other cities have been rocked by violent protests since November 22, when Mursi promulgated a decree awarding himself sweeping powers that put him above the law.
The upheaval in the most populous Arab nation, following the fall of Hosni Mubarak last year, worries the West, in particular the United States, which has given it billions of dollars in military and other aid since Egypt made peace with Israel in 1979.
Mursi's deputy raised the possibility that a referendum set for December 15 on a new constitution opposed by liberals might be delayed. But the concession only goes part-way towards meeting the demands of the opposition, who also want Mursi to scrap the decree awarding himself wide powers.
On Friday, large crowds of protesters surged around the presidential palace, breaking through barbed wire barricades and climbing on tanks guarding the seat of Egypt's first freely elected president, who took office in June.
As the night wore on, tens of thousands of opposition supporters were still at the palace, waving flags and urging Mursi to "Leave, leave".
"AS LONG AS IT TAKES"
"We will stay here for as long as it takes and will continue to organise protests elsewhere until President Mursi cancels his constitutional decree and postpones the referendum," said Ahmed Essam, 28, a computer engineer and a member of the liberal Dostour party.
Vice President Mahmoud Mekky issued a statement saying the president was prepared to postpone the referendum if that could be done without legal challenge.
Mursi's planned dialogue meeting was expected to go ahead on Saturday in the absence of most opposition factions. "Everything will be on the table," a presidential source said.
Mursi could be joined by some senior judiciary figures and politicians such as Ayman Nour, one of the candidates in Mubarak's only multi-candidate presidential race, in 2005, in which he was unsurprisingly trounced.
The opposition has demanded that Mursi rescind the decree giving himself wide powers and delay the vote set for December 15 on a constitution drafted by an Islamist-led assembly which they say fails to meet the aspirations of all Egyptians.
EXPAT VOTE DELAYED
The state news agency reported that the election committee had postponed the start of voting for Egyptians abroad until Wednesday, instead of Saturday as planned. It did not say whether this would affect the timing of voting within Egypt.
Ahmed Said, leader of the liberal Free Egyptians Party, told Reuters that delaying expatriate voting was intended to seem like a concession but would not change the opposition's stance.
The opposition organised marches converging on the palace which Republican Guard units had ringed with tanks and barbed wire on Thursday after violence between supporters and opponents of Mursi killed seven people and wounded 350.
Islamists, who had obeyed a military order for demonstrators to leave the palace environs, held funerals on Friday at Cairo's al-Azhar mosque for six Mursi partisans who were among the dead.
"With our blood and souls, we sacrifice to Islam," they chanted.
A group led by leftist opposition leader Hamdeen Sabahy has called for an open-ended protest at the palace.
Some pro-Mursi demonstrators gathered in a mosque not far from the palace, but said they would not march towards the palace to avoid a repeat of the violence that took place on Wednesday night.
In a speech late on Thursday, Mursi had refused to retract his decree or cancel the referendum on the constitution, but offered talks on the way forward after the referendum.
The National Salvation Front, the main opposition coalition, said it would not join the dialogue. The Front's coordinator, Mohamed ElBaradei, a Nobel peace laureate, dismissed the offer as "arm-twisting and imposition of a fait accompli".
ElBaradei said that if Mursi were to scrap the decree with which he awarded himself extra powers and postpone the referendum "he will unite the national forces".
Murad Ali, spokesman for the Muslim Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice Party, said opposition reactions were sad: "What exit to this crisis do they have other than dialogue?" he asked.
(This story corrects Mursi's title to president in paragraph 1)
(Additional reporting by Omar Fahmy; Writing by Giles Elgood; Editing by Michael Roddy and Paul Tait)
Copyright © 2012 Reuters
Posted: 07 Dec 2012 07:01 PM PST
YANGON (Reuters) - Myanmar's government has apologised for injuries, including serious burns, suffered last month by monks and others when riot police cleared camps set up to protest against evictions caused by the expansion of a copper mine.
Minister of Religious Affairs Myint Maung made a formal apology to 29 senior monks and said police regretted the incident, state-owned television reported late on Friday.
Activists said at least 50 people had been injured when riot police moved in at the Monywa mine in the northwest region of Sagaing on November 29. That included more than 20 Buddhist monks, some with burns blamed on incendiary devices thrown by police.
The mine is operated by the military-owned Union of Myanmar Economic Holdings Ltd working with a unit of China North Industries Corp, a Chinese weapons manufacturer.
Anger had grown at the heavy-handed police intervention, reminiscent of the way dissent was stifled under the junta that ruled Myanmar for half a century until President Thein Sein's quasi-civilian, reformist government took office in March 2011.
As monks protested around the country, Thein Sein quickly asked opposition leader and Nobel Peace laureate Aung San Suu Kyi to head an investigation into the incident and the copper mine project.
"The policemen who had to discharge their duties were extremely sorrowful that monks, some novices and other persons were wounded in the copper mining project incident," Myint Maung told the monks, adding that the government would do its utmost to ensure such "undesirable incidents" did not happen again.
"It was found that the monks and novices carried no guilt as they were young and had no knowledge of political tricks," he said.
No mention was made of how the burns were caused. The authorities had previously said police had used tear gas and water cannon.
At a news conference on Thursday, Suu Kyi said it would be premature to blame anyone for the incident.
"It is impossible to satisfy everyone in such an inquiry," she said. "The commission will do its best to reveal the truth and make the best suggestions bravely for the long-term interests of the country, the people, and for cementing democracy."
She said compromise would be necessary between villagers and the operators of the mine.
U.S.-based Human Rights Watch has called the episode a test case for the government's willingness to allow peaceful protest and make the security forces accountable for abuses.
Residents say the $1 billion mine expansion involves the unlawful confiscation of more than 7,800 acres (3,160 hectares) of land.
(Writing by Alan Raybould; Editing by Paul Tait)
Copyright © 2012 Reuters
Posted: 07 Dec 2012 06:12 PM PST
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will testify on a report expected to be released next week on the deadly attack on the U.S. diplomatic post in Benghazi, Libya, a top Republican lawmaker said on Friday.
"I have just received confirmation from Secretary Clinton's office that the secretary of state will appear before the House Committee on Foreign Affairs to discuss, in an open hearing, the findings and the recommendations in the report," Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen said in a statement.
Ros-Lehtinen is chair of the House of Representatives Foreign Relations Committee, which has already held several hearings and classified briefings on the attack.
The attack killed U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans, and raised questions about the adequacy of security in far-flung posts.
Republicans have criticized the Obama administration for its flawed early public explanations of the attack, and then for shifting explanations of why talking points given to U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Susan Rice were changed to delete a reference to al Qaeda.
Ros-Lehtinen said she expected an accountability review board report on the attack to be released next week.
She said she wanted to hear from Clinton about steps the State Department has taken to deal with problems in the "security of our posts, threat assessments, host government responsibilities and coordination with other U.S. security agencies."
The committee's press release did not give a date for the hearing with Clinton but said it expected to happen "soon after" the review board's report is released.
(Reporting by Doug Palmer; Editing by Lisa Shumaker)
Copyright © 2012 Reuters
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