EGYPT — THE SECOND REVOLUTION
-MILLION-MAN MARCH…The crowds continue to jam Tahrir Square. And the story at the moment appears simple — and stark: Either the military mollifies the masses; or the fury grows. It could go either way tonight. Egyptian protesters may not have gotten their “million-man march” to Tahrir today, but it’s a sea of people, nearly all demanding that the military immediately hand over power to a civilian authority. Lama HASAN reports from Cairo on “an amazing show of force in Tahrir Square. The red, white and black flag fluttering everywhere you look, at least 20 thousand protesters are here and as the day goes on thousands more are arriving. We’re seeing the same scenes, the same spirit as we saw during the revolution that toppled former President Hosni Mubarak. We are hearing the same rallying cries, same chants as well, ‘irhal’ (leave) and “al sha’ab youreed iskat al nizam” (the people want the regime to fall) but of course this time they are referring to the military, asking them to go. The army is still firing tear gas down Mohamed Mahmoud street, a side street that leads into the square, now the frontline in the battle to control Tahrir. Every now and again those young men fighting the army rush into the square to avoid the potent, suffocating tear gas. They splash water on their faces and head right back in to continue their fight…the army hasn’t moved in (yet)…”
-TOP GENERAL TO SPEAK?…The country’s civilian cabinet has offered to resign — and late word from Egyptian state television that the country’s military rulers — the men who took power (or better to say, “kept” power) after Hosni Mubarak was ousted from power — are in crisis meetings with leaders of several political parties. We have heard word that the military has pledged to transfer power to civilian authority next July — and snap reaction from Tahrir: Not soon enough. General Tantawi, head of the ruling military council, will address the nation shortly.
-AMERICANS ARRESTED?… Three Americans have been arrested outside Cairo’s Interior Ministry – for throwing Molotov cocktails during the protests. Video that aired on Egypt’s Nile TV showed three young men and one of their Indiana driver’s license. The U.S. Embassy in Cairo will say only that they have heard the reports and are following as well.
-ELECTIONS ON HOLD?…Landmark, post-Mubarak parliamentary elections are scheduled for next week, but the New York Times reports the growing violence may force the elections to be delayed — and that of course would likely only add to the unrest.
OTHER ARAB SPRING NEWS…
-SYRIA: UN VOTE, NEW CALL TO STEP DOWN…The UN General Assembly’s human rights committee is expected to vote today on a resolution condemning the crackdown on protesters. The resolution, proposed by Germany, France and Britain, sparked accusations from the Syrian government envoy to the UN that Europe was suffering from “Syria-phobia,” AFP reports. Meanwhile, Turkey’s prime minister Recep Tayyip Ergodan said for the first time Tuesday that Syria’s president must step down, reminding Bashar Assad of the bloody end of the Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi, as well as past dictators, including Adolf Hitler.
-NEW CABINET FOR LIBYA…Libya’s Prime Minister-designate Abdurrahim El-Keib is set to announce his cabinet today. He promises to ignore the country’s deep-set regional rivalries to be sure all reaches of the country are represented. Meanwhile, new video of Gadhafi son Seif al-Islam — in which he warns his captors that Libya’s fractious regions will turn against each other soon.
TALIBAN CEASE-FIRE?…A hopeful and intriguing (and Nick SCHIFRIN notes, probably overwritten headline from the AP in Peshawar: Pakistani Taliban say they have declared cease-fire with government in support of peace talks. Nick and Habibullah KHAN reporting.
KEY ENVOY QUITS… Pakistan’s Ambassador to the United States resigned today under pressure from the country’s powerful military, weakening the already struggling civilian government and possibly threatening US counterterror policies in Pakistan. From Nick SCHIFRIN again: Husain Haqqani offered to resign late last week after being accused of facilitating a request to the United States to help Pakistan’s civilian government depose the military leadership. His resignation was finally accepted today, after he returned to Islamabad amid a media storm dubbed “memogate.” In resigning, he did not accept that he had anything to do with the memo that was delivered to then Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Adm. Mullen and written by Mansoor Ijaz, an American businessman of Pakistani descent. ”I have resigned to bring closure to this meaningless controversy threatening our fledgling democracy,” Haqqani told ABC News. Haqqani was forced out by the heads of Pakistan’s military and intelligence service, who have long believed he was too close to the U.S. In Pakistan, Haqqani is often derided by military officials as “having gone native,” a snide reference to the perception that he has been too helpful to the U.S. on controversial American policies, such as drone strikes in Pakistan’s tribal areas. Haqqani’s removal is a blow to President Asif Ali Zardari and to the civilian institutions as a whole, which ultimately felt they could not resist military pressure when it came to Haqqani.
BUSH HELPING AFRICA
The AP reports that former President George W. Bush will travel to Africa next month to raise awareness about cervical and breast cancer, an effort he calls a “natural extension” of a program launched during his presidency that helps fight AIDS on the continent. Bush, former first lady Laura Bush and officials with the George W. Bush Institute are heading to Tanzania, Zambia and Ethiopia, where they’ll visit clinics and meet with governmental and health care leaders. “We believe it’s in our nation’s interest to deal with disease and set priorities and save lives,” Bush told The Associated Press. In 2003, Bush launched the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, or PEPFAR, to expand AIDS prevention, treatment and support programs in countries hit hard by the epidemic. As Dana HUGHES reminds us — the program was widely heralded as a success. The new program, called the Pink Ribbon Red Ribbon initiative, seeks to expand the availability of cervical cancer screening and treatment and breast care education in sub-Saharan Africa and Latin America.
-ALL EYES ON “SUPER MARIO”…Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti heads to Brussels today for a first meeting with European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso and European Council President Herman Van Rompuy. Monti is under enormous pressure to boost Italy’s stagnant growth and bring down high debt, which at 120 percent of GDP is among the highest in the Eurozone. Meantime, the Wall Street Journal reports the EU will announce proposals today for creating a common Eurozone bonds which are thought to be a solution for repairing the continent’s sovereign-bond market.
BERLUSCONI IN COURT
This from Phoebe NATANSON in Rome: The Italian agency ANSA wire just reported — citing legal sources — that former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi will be in court this afternoon for the Mediaset trial in which he is accused of tax fraud.
SOUTH KOREA: TEAR GAS IN THE PARLIAMENT
From Joohee CHO in Seoul: We’ve grown accustomed to brawls in the world’s parliaments — but this was a new one: A fight broke out today when South Korean lawmakers pushed their way into Parliament to force a vote on a trade deal with the U.S. Not only did South Korean television broadcast pictures showing lawmakers pushing and shouting — we also see an opposition assemblyman throw a can of tear gas at the main podium.
AHMADINEJAD ADVISOR QUESTIONS ISLAMIC DRESS CODE FOR WOMEN — AND IS ARRESTED
On the day that the U.S., the U.K. and Canada imposed harsh new sanctions on Iran, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s top media adviser, Ali Akbar Javenfekr, was arrested during a raid on his Tehran office in which security forces used tear gas to arrest him and 32 other people. Javenfekr was arrested for offending Islamic values for questioning the Islamic dress code for women. As the New York Times writes, the arrest seems to be the most dramatic incident in which recent tension between Ahmadinejad and conservatives in the government spilled out into the open. Meanwhile, Iran’s foreign ministry is predicting yesterday’s sanctions will have no effect on the country.
PENGUINS FREED AFTER RESCUE FROM NEW ZEALAND OIL SPILL
Not a “Happy Feet” story — but a nice one about penguins nonetheless. Forty-nine penguins rescued from an oil spill off New Zealand have been set free after being cleaned and nursed back to health. The birds released are among 343 little blue penguins that have been cleaned of oil since a cargo ship ran aground on a reef in October and spilled some 400 tons of fuel oil. They were fitted with microchips so they can be monitored after their release.
MAMMA MIA — $1 MILLION LEFT IN SYDNEY PIZZERIA
Police are looking for the owner of a suitcase “full of money” that was left at an Italian restaurant in Sydney by a mystery customer. Ten Network television reported the suitcase left at Cafe Marco Tuesday morning contained about 1 million Australian dollars ($1 million) in 50 dollar notes. But police will only describe the suitcase contents as “a significant amount of cash.” Detective Inspector Ian Pryde told reporters a man around 30-years-old wearing surfing shorts and a singlet carried the suitcase into the cafe. He then “seemed to get spooked” and left without the money.