Egypt crisis continues; Is Mubarak headed for clinic?

Cairo/Washington/Hamburg, Feb 8 – The US said Egypt faces a ‘bumpy’ process in its transition to a multi-party democracy as determined Egyptians continued with their protests for the 15th day against Hosni Mubarak Tuesday, a day when it was reported that the 82-year-old president could be headed to a luxury German clinic.

The protesters, enthused by the release of senior Google executive Wael Ghonim Monday, became more determined to see the ouster of Mubarak who has ruled the country for nearly 30 years.

They camped through the night at downtown Cairo’s Tahrir square as the protests entered its 15th day Tuesday.

The government Monday offered a pay rise to public-sector workers, but the sop was promptly shot down by the pro-democracy protesters.

‘(The pay rise) doesn’t mean anything,’ Sherif Zein, a protester at Tahrir Square told Al Jazeera Tuesday.

‘Maybe it will be a short-term release for the workers … but most of the people will realise what this is, it’s just a tablet of asprin, but it’s nothing meaningful.’

The embattled president, who has been in power for three decades, one of the longest serving rulers in the Middle East, has said that he is ready to step down at the end of his term in September, but not now. Mubarak, a staunch ally of the US that has helped to prop him up as a pillar of stability in a volatile region, also warned of chaos in the country if he left now.

The US is trying to work out a proposal to have a transition government in the country. The Egyptian government Sunday held talks with the opposition group, Muslim Brotherhood that had been banned for the past several years.

Vice President Omar Suleiman said Tuesday that Mubarak would set up a committee that would carry out constitutional and legislative amendments to enable a shift of power.

The US has been closely monitering the Egypt crisis. The US has now signalled its backing for a more deliberate approach to political negotiations in Egypt with White House saying its key ally faces a ‘bumpy’ process in its transition to a multi-party democracy.

White House press secretary Robert Gibbs Monday told reporters that Cairo should ‘outline a series of steps and a timeline that the Egyptian people are comfortable with’.

Gibbs said: ‘This is a process that is going to be at times bumpy, because when for 28 years you have had one leader, without … really a robust opposition, it’s going to take some time to work this stuff out.’

Life in Cairo – barring the Tahrir square – has been slowly getting back to normal. Some shops and banks were open, the traffic on the streets was increasing.

DPA reported from Cairo that Egypt’s economy is struggling to recover from the closure of banks and businesses during the protests.

Banks reopened for limited business Sunday. Mahmoud Abdellatif, head of Bank of Alexandria, said business was better than expected, as deposits were greater than withdrawals.

Egypt’s stock exchange announced it would reopen at the end of the week after a two-week closure triggered by the unrest that caused a 17-percent loss on the benchmark EGX30 index in the last two days it traded.

However, tanks continue to guard government buildings, embassies and other important institutions in the capital to ensure that there is no repeat of the violence that broke out last week.

Mubarak has ordered to set up an independent commission to investigate clashes between his supporters and protesters in Cairo last week that killed at least 11 people.

He said Monday that the commission must be fully independent and ‘comprise people who are known in Egypt as decent and trustworthy’, RIA Novosti reported.

The president urged the commission to investigate ‘the facts of unacceptable violations committed against the protesters’.

The unrest has claimed the lives of at least 300 people and injured several thousand.

Amid the continuing political upheaval, Spiegel Online, the web version of the reputed German magazine Der Spiegel published from Hamburg, dramatically revealed that a German luxury clinic that offers ‘comfort and service of a top hotel’ is being considered for Mubarak.

The move to Germany is part of an exit strategy being worked out for Mubarak is facing unprecedented challenge to his rule.

Spiegel Online reported that plans for a possible hospital stay in Germany appear to be more concrete than previously believed and the luxury clinic near Baden-Baden is being considered.

Talks are being held with suitable hospitals, including the Max-Grundig-Klinik Buhlerhohe in the southwestern town of Buhl near Baden-Baden.

The clinic has a respected oncology department and says on its website that it provides ‘first-class medical care’ and the ‘comfort and service of a top hotel’.

Patients are put up in suites up to 200 square meters in size.

There have been rumours in the past that Mubarak suffers from cancer. Mubarak had his gallbladder and an intestinal polyp removed in the Heidelberg University Clinic in 2010.

IANS