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Egypt Cabinet offers to resign but protests go on

By Hamza Hendawi and Sarah El Deeb

Associated Press

Published: Monday, Nov. 21 2011 10:03 p.m. MST

Protesters move away from the tear gas fired by Egyptian riot police during clashes near Tahrir Square located in Cairo, Egypt.

Associated Press

CAIRO — Egypt's civilian Cabinet offered to resign Monday after three days of violent clashes between demonstrators and security forces in Tahrir Square, but the action failed to satisfy protesters deeply frustrated with the new military rulers.

The Health Ministry and a doctor at an improvised field hospital on the square said at least 26 people have been killed and 1,750 wounded in the latest violence as activists sought to fill the streets for a "second revolution" to force out the generals who have failed to stabilize the country, salvage the economy or bring democracy.

Throughout the day, young protesters demanding the military hand over power to a civilian government fought with black-clad police, hurling stones and firebombs and throwing back the tear gas canisters being fired by police into the square, which was the epicenter of the movement that ousted authoritarian leader Hosni Mubarak.

By midnight tens of thousands of protesters were in the huge downtown square.

The clashes have deepened the disarray among Egypt's political ranks, with the powerful Muslim Brotherhood balking at joining in the demonstrations, fearing that turmoil will disrupt elections next week that the Islamists expect to dominate.

The protests in Tahrir and elsewhere across this nation of some 85 million people have forced the ruling military council as well as the Cabinet it backs into two concessions, but neither were significant enough to send anyone home.

The council issued an anti-graft law that bans anyone convicted of corruption from running for office or holding a government post, a move that is likely to stop senior members from the Mubarak regime from running for public office.

Hours later, the Cabinet of Prime Minister Essam Sharaf submitted its resignation to the council, a move that was widely expected given the government's perceived inefficiency and its almost complete subordination to the generals.

Protesters cheered and shouted "God is great!" when the news arrived of the Cabinet resignation offer, but they almost immediately resumed their chant of "The people want to topple the field marshal" — a reference to military ruler Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi.

"We are not clearing the square until there is a national salvation government that is representative and has full responsibility," said activist Rami Shaat, who was at the site.

The council released a statement late Monday calling for a national dialogue to "urgently study the reasons for the current crisis and ways to overcome it."

The statement, carried by Egypt's state news agency, said the military deeply regrets the loss of life and has ordered the Justice Ministry to form a committee to investigate the incidents of the past few days. The military said it ordered security forces to take measures that would protect demonstrators, who have the right to peaceful protest.

White House spokesman Jay Carney said the United States was deeply concerned about the violence and urged restraint on all sides so Egypt could proceed with a timely transition to democracy.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon also deplored the loss of life and called on authorities "to guarantee the protection of human rights and civil liberties for all Egyptians, including the right to peaceful protest," U.N. spokesman Martin Nesirky said.

Amnesty International harshly criticized the military rulers in a new report, saying they have "completely failed to live up their promises to Egyptians to improve human rights."

The London-based group documented steps by the military that have fallen short of increasing human rights and in some cases have made matters worse than under Mubarak.

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