Protests continue in Yemen, Algeria and Morocco as strikes banned in Egypt

Pitched street battles continue in Yemen as riot police target protesters in Algeria and Morocco. Strikes are banned in Egypt.

Donald Macintyre
Sunday 20 February 2011 01:00 GMT

The wave of protests across the Arab world continued yesterday as Bahraini security forces ceded control of the symbolic Pearl Square in Manama to demonstrators and another protester was killed in Yemen.

The protests were being watched anxiously by authoritarian rulers across the region. These included Saudi Arabia, which joined forces with China to water down a G22 resolution welcoming the democratic uprising that has ousted the rulers of Egypt and Tunisia and helped to inspire the current unrest.

Yemen An anti-government protester was killed and another seven injured in the capital, Sana'a, during pitched street battles with supporters of Ali Abdullah Saleh, the country's President for 32 years.

In an echo of claims made by politicians in Hosni Mubarak's regime midway through the protests that toppled him nine days ago, the Yemeni President – considered an ally in the US fight against al-Qa'ida – blamed a "foreign agenda" and "a conspiracy against Yemen". In fact, the protests appear to have stemmed more from anger over corruption, unemployment, and rock-bottom family incomes in the poorest country in the Arab world.

The protester was shot and taken to a hospital near Sana'a University where he died. Reuters said it was the first time the use of firearms by both sides had been reported.

In south Yemen, where the President has struggled to contain a secessionist movement, dozens of men in the town of Karish shouted slogans calling for the fall of the regime. They used their cars to try to block the main road between the city of Taiz, where many thousands of anti-government protesters have taken to the streets, and the southern port of Aden. In Aden, around 400 protesters staged a peaceful sit-in, brandishing banners proclaiming "No to oppression. No to corruption."

Algeria/Morocco Algerian riot police surrounded about 500 people trying to stage a march through the capital, Algiers. The crowd was herded into the courtyard of a residential block, where police surrounded protesters from both sides as well as hundreds of bystanders.

And in the Moroccan city of Tangier, riot police used truncheons to break up a protest in which a police station was attacked. Although the protest came on the eve of a nationwide call for demonstrations urging political reform, it appeared to stem from local anger over the high tariffs charged by foreign utilities.

Egypt Cairo's streets were back to normal yesterday after Friday's huge rally in Tahrir Square celebrating President Mubarak's going. A court ruling yesterday gave the banned Wasat Party, a breakaway from the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood, full legal status

Meanwhile, one section of the leadership of Egypt's large Christian Coptic minority agreed to a request by the military to postpone its plans for a demonstration today calling for the repeal of article two of Egypt's constitution, which specifies Islam as the state religion. It to hold a conference on the issue instead.

One of the organisers, Coptic lawyer Naguib Copral, who was among a group calling on Copts not to join the 25 January anti-regime protests, said he was worried by calls by religious leaders and the Muslim Brotherhood for the article to stay, and by the appointment of a moderate Islamist, Tarek El-Bishry, to head the commission considering amendments to the constitution.

But another prominent Copt, Professor Mona Makram-Ebeid, who took part in the pro-democracy protest and is one of the trustees of its organisers' revolutionary council, said yesterday this was "the wrong time" to raise the issue. She said "the demand of the people is for an entirely new constitution"; if this proclaimed Egypt as a "secular, democratic, pluralist" state, she said, the article need not be an issue.

While the army has now issued its sternest warning yet to workers across the country to halt a wave of strikes, three ministers have been arrested on corruption charges, including Habib El Adly, the former minister of the interior widely blamed for the brutal attacks on pro-democracy demonstrators three weeks ago.

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