Egypt riots continue, cabinet submits resignation

UN chief calls on Egyptian gov't to guarantee right to protest; military council:We'll seek new PM before accepting resignation.

Protesters fill Cairo's Tahrir Square 311 (R) (photo credit: REUTERS/Amr Abdallah Dalsh)
Protesters fill Cairo's Tahrir Square 311 (R)
(photo credit: REUTERS/Amr Abdallah Dalsh)
Egypt's ruling military council was considering on Monday whether to accept the resignation of the entire cabinet tendered the day before, after violent clashes in Cairo's Tahrir square between police and protesters, a cabinet source said on Monday.
The cabinet spokesman Mohamed Hegazy said "considering the difficult circumstances the country is going through in the current period, the government will continue to perform its full duties until a decision on the resignation is made," state news agency MENA quoted him as saying.
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A military official told Reuters that the ruling council is seeking agreement on a new prime minister before it accepts the resignation submitted by the cabinet of Prime Minister Essam Sharaf.
The resignation comes as the death toll from protests in the Egyptian capital topped 30, as clashes between protesters and security forces continued for three days. Medical sources put the number of dead at 33 while the Egyptian health Ministry said 22 people had been killed.
Protesters demanding Egypt's ruling generals hand over power beat back a new police raid to evict them from Cairo's central Tahrir Square on Monday, witnesses said.
At least 425 people have been wounded since violence erupted in downtown Cairo three days ago, according to the Egyptian Health Ministry. Police fired tear gas and attacked a makeshift field hospital, while protesters broke up pavements to hurl the chunks of concrete at police.
Clashes in Egypt (Reuters)Clashes in Egypt (Reuters)
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon expressed deep concern on Monday about violence in Egypt and called on authorities to guarantee the right to peaceful protest.
Ban "is deeply concerned about the violence in Egypt during the last few days, particularly in Cairo," said a statement issued by his spokesman Martin Nesirky. "He deplores the loss of life and the many injuries," the statement added. Morgue officials said the death toll had risen to 33.
Nesirky said Ban called on Egypt's transitional authorities to guarantee the protection of human rights and civil liberties for all Egyptians, including the right to peaceful protest.
"He urges restraint and calm by all parties to enable a peaceful and inclusive electoral process as part of Egypt's transition to democracy and the early establishment of civilian rule,"
the statement continued.
"There is clearly no going back as you can see this violence cannot be swept under the table," said Essam Gouda, a protester in Tahrir, who said two marches were due to converge there by mid-afternoon.
"We aim to control the entry points to the square so that security doesn't block protesters from entering," said Essam.
Tahrir Square was the rallying point for protesters in Cairo when an 18-day uprising toppled Mubarak from three decades of power in February.
With just a week before voting in the first free parliamentary election in decades, the confrontations have raised concerns about how smooth voting will be.
Egyptians elect a new parliament in a staggered vote that starts on Nov. 28, but even when the assembly is picked, presidential powers remain with the army until a presidential poll, which may not happen until late 2012 or early 2013. Protesters want a much swifter transition.
Protesters standing in cloud of tear gas (Reuters)Protesters standing in cloud of tear gas (Reuters)
Police backed by army officers fired salvos of gas canisters and charged demonstrators in the square as darkness fell on Sunday, temporarily sending protesters fleeing. Demonstrators brandished spent shotgun cartridges and bullet casings, although police denied using live rounds.
Security forces burned down banners and Internet clips, which could not be independently checked, showed police beating protesters with sticks, pulling them by the hair and, in one case, dumping what appeared to be a corpse on piles of rubbish.
Demonstrators swiftly regrouped in side streets and returned to take control of the square overnight before police tried again to retake Tahrir after dawn.
Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi, Mubarak's defense minister for two decades and who leads the army council, has become a target of protests.
"I don't want Tantawi ... I am staying tonight," said Ayman Ramadan, a data entry employee, said early on Monday morning.
Outside the burning apartment building, protesters chanted: "Tantawi burnt it and here are the revolutionaries!"