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Egypt braces for general strike

CAIRO, Egypt, (AP) — Egypt’s Interior Ministry warned Egyptians on Saturday against interfering with traffic or keeping public servants from going to work ahead of a general strike being called by textile workers and activists.

Egypt’s largest state-owned textile factory, Mahalla al-Kobra, has called for a strike Sunday over low wages and rising prices. Democracy activists are trying to turn it into a nationwide action at a time of rising discontent over economic conditions.

The ministry’s agencies will take the necessary and immediate firm measures against any attempt to demonstrate, block traffic or hinder public services — or inciting any of these acts, the statement said.

The ministry went on to condemn the illegitimate groups calling for the strike and assured the people that on Sunday, government services will be operating as normal.

Strikes and demonstrations are illegal in Egypt under emergency law. Limited demonstrations became possible in the aftermath of the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq and American pressure on the region to democratize and ahead of Egyptian presidential elections in 2005.

In 2006, however, security services no longer allowed even limited street protests.

In its statement, the ministry assured that there was no prevention of freedom of expression, just that such actions must come through legitimate channels and the qualified unions and professional associations according to the law.

Al-Azhar, the nation’s highest Sunni Islamic institution, whose head is appointed by the government, has also come out against the strike.

Any delay of work is considered harmful to the citizens’ and state’s interest and will exacerbate the problem, Sheik Abdel-Fattah Allam, a senior official at the institution, said in the early Sunday edition of the state-owned daily Al-Gomhuria.

In recent days, anti-government groups have been sending mobile phone messages and e-mails urging people across the country to hold protests, stay home from work, avoid shopping, wear black clothes and hang the Egyptian flag from windows and balconies in a show of support for the strikers.

The country’s most powerful opposition movement, the Muslim Brotherhood, threw its support behind the strikers Thursday, raising government fears that the movements seeks to position itself to be the political vehicle for the economic discontent.

The government quickly announced a ban on political rallies inside mosques, hoping to blunt protests. Mubarak also lifted import duties on some foodstuffs in an effort to soften economic complaints brought on by a near doubling of prices because of international and local influences.

Nearly 40 percent of Egyptians live near or below the poverty line of $2 a day.

The strike calls were the first major attempt by opposition groups to turn the past year’s labor unrest and the rising anger over the economy into a wider political protest against the government, only two days before key elections for local councils Tuesday. E-mail to a friend

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

Egypt braces for general strike – found here.

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April 6, 2008 - Posted by | Uncategorized

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