Tahrir square traffic 311 AP.
(photo credit: Associated Press)
CAIRO — Egyptian Prime Minister Ahmed Shafiq said Sunday that the caretaker government's priority now is restoring security as the country transitions from three decades of Hosni Mubarak's rule to a democracy.
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Shafiq spoke at a news conference Sunday after the first Cabinet meeting since Mubarak was forced to step down on Friday.
"Our concern now in the Cabinet is security, to bring security back to the Egyptian citizen," he said.
Also Sunday, Egyptian troops scuffled with holdout protesters in Tahrir Square as they moved in to dismantle the protest camp, but outbreaks of labor unrest, including a demonstration by police, reflected the challenges of steering Egypt toward stability and democratic rule.
There were also protests by workers at a ceramic factory, a textile factory and at least two banks as Egyptians emboldened by the autocrat's fall sought to improve their lot in a country where poverty and other challenges will take years or decades to address.
Troops pushed aside a dwindling band of protesters who do not want to
abandon their encampment in Tahrir Square, fearful that the generals
entrusted with a transition to democratic rule will not fulfill their
Still, most protesters had left the square in downtown Cairo, and
traffic moved through the area for the first time, even though some
activists tried to block vehicles by laying down blankets in the road.
About 1,000 police who protested in front of the Interior Ministry,
which oversees them, scuffled with soldiers who tried to disperse them.
Some troops fired gunshots in the air, but later withdrew to avoid
antagonizing the protesters.
In Tahrir Square, soldiers and military police took down makeshift tents
scuffles broke out with some young men who refused to leave. Many local
residents shouted at the protesters that it was time to go.
The tension reflected the fragility of the situation as protesters press
for a voice in guiding their country's move to democracy. Egypt's new
military rulers promised Saturday to abide by the peace treaty with Israel
and eventually hand power to an elected government, but many protesters
worried long-sought reforms would be stalled if they give up.
The crowd on Tahrir Square was down from a peak of a quarter-million at
the height of the demonstrations to a few thousand on Sunday. Most of
those remaining were pushed to sidewalks and the streets were open to
traffic for the first time in more than two weeks.
A coalition of youth and opposition groups that was the driving force of
the movement pulled supporters from the streets, calling instead for
weekly mass demonstrations every Friday to keep up pressure.