Muslim Brotherhood and Secular Reformers Join Forces to Support ElBaradei

Mohamed ElBaradei, the Nobel laureate and opposition leader, joined the protesters in Liberation Square in Cairo. (NYTIMES)

Culture-making and faith connections in Egypt’s turmoil became clearer as Muslim extremists joined secular reform movement leaders in supporting  Mohamed ElBaradei as spokesman for opposition to president Hosni Mubarak.  Two New York Times articles highlight the “good news – bad news” elements of this coalition that make it difficult for President Obama and the U.S. State Department to discern if they are helping or hurting Muslim extremism in the region.

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Opposition Rallies to ElBaradei as Military Reinforces in Cairo

CAIRO —Egypt’s powerful Muslim Brotherhood and the secular opposition banded together Sunday around a prominent government critic to negotiate for forces seeking the fall of “President Hosni Mubarak, as the army struggled to hold a capital seized by fears of chaos and buoyed by euphoria that three decades of Mr. Mubarak’s rule may be coming to an end.

The announcement that the critic, Mohamed ElBaradei, would represent a loosely unified opposition reconfigured the struggle between Mr. Mubarak’s government and a six-day-old uprising bent on driving him and his party from power.

Though lacking deep support on his own, Dr. ElBaradei, a Nobel laureate and diplomat, could serve as a consensus figure for a movement that has struggled to articulate a program for a potential transition. It suggested, too, that the opposition was aware of the uprising’s image abroad, putting forth a candidate who might be more acceptable to the West than beloved in Egypt.

In scenes as tumultuous as any since the uprising began, Dr. ElBaradei defied a government curfew and joined thousands of protesters in Liberation Square, a downtown landmark that has become the epicenter of the uprising and a platform, writ small, for the frustrations, ambitions and resurgent pride of a generation claiming the country’s mantle.

“Today we are proud of Egyptians,” Dr. ElBaradei told throngs who surged toward him in a square festooned with banners calling for Mr. Mubarak’s fall. “We have restored our rights, restored our freedom, and what we have begun cannot be reversed.”

Dr. ElBaradei declared it a “new era,” and as night fell there were few in Egypt who seemed to disagree.

Dr. ElBaradei also criticized the Obama administration, as Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton delivered the message via Sunday news programs in Washington that Mr. Mubarak should create an “orderly transition” to a more politically open Egypt, while she refrained from calling on him to resign. That approach, Dr. ElBaradei said, was “a failed policy” eroding American credibility.

“It’s better for President Obama not to appear that he is the last one to say to President Mubarak, it’s time for you to go,” Dr. ElBaradei said.

The tumult Sunday seemed perched between two deepening narratives: a vision of anarchy offered by the government, and echoed by Egyptians fearing chaos, against the perspective of protesters and many others that the uprising had become what they called “a popular revolution.”

Read entire New York Times article here: Opposition Rallies to ElBaradei.

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Egyptian Army Says It Will Not Fire on Protesters

There appeared to be more protesters in Liberation Square in Cairo on Monday than on previous days. (NYTIMES)

CAIRO —Egypt’s new vice president said on Monday that President Hosni Mubarak has authorized him to open a dialogue with the opposition for constitutional and political reforms. The vice president, Omar Suleiman, did not offer any further details.

It was not immediately clear who Mr. Suleiman was addressing his offer to, or whether the opposition would accept. Throughout the protests, the overriding demand of the protesters has been Mr. Mubarak’s resignation.

The Egyptian Army announced Monday for the first time that it would not fire on protesters, even as tens of thousands of people gathered in central Liberation Square for a seventh day to demand the ouster of President Hosni Mubarak.

The extraordinary announcement — delivered on state TV with no elaboration by the Army’s official spokesman — declared that “freedom of expression through peaceful means is guaranteed to everybody.” Yet, coming from a government dominated by former military officers, including Mr. Mubarak, it raised as many questions as it answered.

Experts said it could reveal cracks in the ruling elite, or perhaps reflected an evolving strategy to resurrect the police, who were back on the streets Monday for the first time in days. Others took it at face value, as a straightforward promise to abstain from any violence against Egyptians, but others saw a veiled threat to those who would go beyond “peaceful means.”

Whatever the motivation, the opposition was not prepared to celebrate the announcement as the turning point it was in Tunisia…

Read entire New York Times article here: Egyptian Army Says It Will Not Fire on Protesters