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Israel Concerned About Egyptian Regime Change

Israel warily watched Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak’s resignation unfold Friday, concerned about the countries’ peace treaty.

The 30-year autocrat’s decision to step down from power, which comes after 18 days of widespread protests in Cairo and other major Egyptian cities, was announced by Vice President Omar Suleiman in a televised broadcast Friday night.

While Israel’s government has declined official comment on the new development, Israeli officials are worried that the ouster of their Arab ally could mean trouble.

“We have a tough period ahead of us,” Zvi Mazel, a former Israeli ambassador in Egypt, told Israel TV, according to AP. “Iran and Turkey will consolidate positions against us. Forget about the former Egypt. Now it’s a completely new reality, and it won’t be easy.”

After Turkey abandoned its alliance last year, Jordan is the only remaining Arab country that still has a peace deal with Israel, AP reports.

Binyamin Ben-Eliezer, an Israeli Labor Party Knesset member and former defense minister, voiced concern over Mubarak’s resignation.

“From this day on, I only have lots of questions about what will be, what will be the fate of the peace treaty between us and the Egyptians?” Ben-Eliezer told Israel TV’s Channel 10, as quoted by AP. “There are many questions that we don’t have answers for, how will this affect the entire region now?”

The peace treaty between Israel and Egypt has been in effect since 1979.

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Tahrir Square Sees More Protests

Tahrir Square swarmed with pro-democracy demonstrators today as protesters turned out in droves yet again to denounce the regime of 30-year President Hosni Mubarak.

Thousands of Egyptian anti-government demonstrators flocked to Cairo’s central square, numbering as many as 100,000 strong, including families with children, The Associated Press reported Friday. That’s the largest turnout since Tuesday, when a quarter-million protesters took to the streets.

Source: UPI

The entrances to the square were blocked by soldiers, who checked IDs and performed body searches. Protesters forming a human chain then performed secondary searches for people entering the square.

Mubarak supporters rallied nearby in another square, AP reports. They attempted to move toward Tahrir but were driven back by protesters throwing rocks.

In an interview with ABC News Wednesday, the 82-year-old Mubarak said that he would like to step down immediately, but that doing so would cause chaos in the country.

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Hosni Mubarak Supporters Gather in Cairo

Supporters of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak gathered today in Cairo to counter the past week’s anti-government protests.

On an upscale boulevard in the nation’s capital, thousands of Mubarak defenders – including government workers, men in designer sunglasses and women with expensive hairdos – congregated to peacefully voice their support of the autocratic leader, AP reported Wednesday. A few dozen government-employed nurses chanted, “We love you Mubarak!”

Things were less subdued in Cairo’s central Tahrir Square, where opposition protesters had been keeping a vigil for days. The two sides clashed violently there today, AP reported, hitting each other with sticks and leaving many injured.

After 30 years in power, Mubarak has buckled to pressure from the protests and promised to stand down at the country’s next election in September. But demonstrators continue to demand that the 82-year-old relinquish his authority immediately.
The Egyptian military also called for Mubarak to step down immediately.

“Your message has arrived, your demands became known … you are capable of bringing normal life to Egypt,” a military spokesman said, according to AP.

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Davos Conference Wraps Up

The World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland drew to a close Sunday after a week’s worth of debate on global debt, climate change, food shortages, and a host of other international issues.

Prominent politicians spoke to the world’s most powerful business leaders at the upscale snowbound resort in the Swiss mountains during the annual event, aimed at strengthening a globalized economy.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon pushed hard for the development of an energy-efficient economy, urging the United States and Europe to lead the rest of the world in combatting climate change.

“Let me highlight the one resource that is scarcest of all: time,” Ban said, according to AFP.

Other issues that took precedence at the gathering included the ongoing anti-government revolts in North Africa, Chinese asset-price inflation, rising food prices, and Europe’s debt crisis.

The first day of the conference was rocked by news of a Moscow airport bombing, which took place shortly before Russian President Dmitry Medvedev was due in Davos. The violence delayed his arrival, and the forum paused for a minute of silence prior to his opening day speech.

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Egypt Gov’t Gains Apparent Support of Israel

As violent street protests imperil President Hosni Mubarak’s regime in Egypt, Israel is calling on Western countries to end criticism of the 30-year leader “in a bid to preserve stability in Egypt” and the Middle East at large, Al Jazeera reports.

The Israeli daily newspaper Haaretz reported Monday that Israel’s foreign ministry urged the United States and Europe to “stress…the importance of Egypt’s stability” as widespread demonstrations wrack the streets of Cairo and other Egyptian cities.

Egypt has been a key ally to Israel since the two countries reached peace in 1979.

The anti-government protests present a significant threat to Israel, and although Israeli officials have remained largely silent about the unrest, they have reportedly held lengthy strategy sessions this week to address the possibility of Mubarak’s ouster.

“We are anxiously monitoring what is happening in Egypt and in our region,” said Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu before his cabinet’s weekly meeting on Sunday, according to Al Jazeera.

“Israel and Egypt have been at peace for more than three decades and our objective is to ensure that these ties be preserved. At this time, we must display responsibility, restraint and utmost prudence,” Netanyahu added.

If Mubarak’s autocratic regime is booted from power, the Muslim Brotherhood – Egypt’s strongest opposition group – could assume control over the country. In all likelihood, that group and its allies would distance Egypt from its relationship with the West and possibly nullify the peace agreement with Israel.

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Kabul: 8 Die in Grocery Store Attack

A Kabul, Afghanistan explosion in a supermarket frequented by foreigners left at least eight people dead Friday.

Afghan authorities said three foreigners and a child were among the dead and that six others were injured.

The Taliban claimed responsibility for the incident, saying the bombing was against U.S.-based security contractor, AP said Friday.

An eyewitness said that the blast leveled the first floor of the Finest Supermarket in the Wazir Akbar Khan neighborhood, the New York Times reports.

The grocery is just 100 yards from the British embassy, and is popular among diplomats and foreigners.

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Egypt Prepares for “Angry Friday”

Egypt this morning was poised for massive protests calling for the ouster of the 30-year President Hosni Mubarak.

The anti-government demonstrations today, dubbed “Angry Friday,” were organized largely with the help of social networking websites like Facebook and Twitter. They follow three days of bloody protests in the capital of Cairo and other Egyptian cities like Suez, where demonstrators hurled Molotov cocktails and stones at police and set the town’s firehouse ablaze, according to UPI.

Bracing for more tumult, the Egyptian government blocked Internet and cellphone service early Friday to prevent anti-government activists from communicating with one another.

Protesters were told that the government was dispatching “thugs” calling themselves “Ikhwan al-Haq,” or “Brotherhood of Truth,” to patrol the streets of Cairo with knives and swords and attack or kill demonstrators if necessary, UPI reports.

Egypt’s Interior Ministry arrested hundreds of demonstrators, including a number of prominent opposition figures. The Muslim Brotherhood, which is backing the protests, told The Associated Press that at least five of its leaders and five former members of parliament had been detained.

Mubarak’s regime posted a special operations counterterrorism force in strategic positions around Cairo, including Tahrir Square.

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Suicide Attack in Iraq Leaves 65 Dead

A suicide attack in northern Iraq has killed 65 people, officials say.

A suicide bomber detonated a vest full of explosives Tuesday in a crowd outside a police station in Saddam Hussein’s hometown of Tikrit.

Hospital director Dr. Raied al-Ani raised the death toll from 50 to 65 Wednesday, The Associated Press reported. He said 150 people were wounded in the bombing.

The crowd of police recruits was gathered to submit applications for 2,000 newly created jobs.

No group has claimed responsibility for the bombing, but authorities suspect it may have been the work of a Sunni group with ties to al-Qaida.

On Wednesday, the violence was followed by a pair of additional suicide blasts in Diyala province, north of Baghdad.

A suicide bomber crashed an explosives-laden ambulance into an Iraqi security headquarters in the provincial capital of Baquba, killing 13.

Two more were killed in a nearby town when a person wearing an explosives-packed vest blew himself up near a convoy that included local authority Sadiq al-Husseini, AFP reports. Al-Husseini and 15 others were wounded.

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Jean-Claude Duvalier to Remain in Haiti

Former Haitian dictator Jean-Claude Duvalier will remain in Haiti despite accusations of corruption and embezzlement, his lawyer said Wednesday.

Defense attorney Reynold Georges told the press that the former president known as “Baby Doc” is “is free to to whatever he wants, go wherever he wants,” AP reports.

The strongman was ousted and exiled from the Caribbean island nation in 1986. He was accused of pilfering hundreds of millions of dollars from the state treasury and being responsible for the torture and killing of political enemies.

Nearly 25 years after his exile, the autocratic leader returned to his Caribbean homeland on Sunday. He had been living in Paris.

A Haitian judge is reportedly looking into whether there is sufficient evidence to try Duvalier on corruption and embezzlement charges, AP reports. That process can take up to three months.

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Hu Jintao Arrives in U.S.; Obama Calls for Human Rights Reform

Chinese President Hu Jintao arrived in the U.S. Tuesday for a four-day state visit aimed at settling economic, global security and human rights disputes between the two nations.

In 2010, Washington and Beijing battled over China’s currency, international trade issues, China’s human rights record and the United States’ military support of Taiwan.

Hu is poised to assert China’s validity as a rising world power while soothing fears over its intentions.

Meanwhile, President Obama hopes to make progress on China’s troubling human rights issues, and will likely present Hu with the message that expanded civil rights could spur economic growth, the Washington Post reports.

On Wednesday, Hu was met with a grand arrival ceremony on the White House’s South Lawn, where Obama pushed his human rights reform agenda in a speech welcoming the Chinese president.

“History shows that societies are more harmonious, nations are more successful and the world is more just when the rights and responsibilities of all nations and all people are upheld, including the universal rights of every human being,” Obama said.

“Harmonious Society” is a catchphrase of Hu’s administration as his Communist Party tries to retain power in China’s budding free market economy. The Chinese sometimes use the term ironically: Web sites that suddenly vanish are “harmonized away,” the New York Times reports.

Activists have urged Obama to address concerns about worsening human rights conditions in China.

Hu said during the arrival ceremony Wednesday that U.S.-Chinese relations should be based on mutual respect. He said he hoped the state visit would “open a new chapter in cooperation as partners.”

It is Hu’s first trip to the U.S. since 2006.

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