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Will reforms quell protests?

As the Egyptian revolution entered the third week, embattled president Hosni Mubarak met his new cabinet for the first time and came out with pay rises for 6 million government employees. Amitav Sanyal reports.

world Updated: Feb 09, 2011 02:06 IST
Amitav Sanyal

As the Egyptian revolution entered the third week, embattled president Hosni Mubarak met his new cabinet for the first time and came out with pay rises for 6 million government employees. But the government's move to shore up support and restore a sense of normalcy didn't cut ice with protestors around the country.

The second largest city, Alexandria, saw the largest gathering yet at the City Gaber train station.

A huge crowd, claimed by the organisers to be more than a million strong, gathered there by Tuesday evening, boosted by the presence of professional unions such as those of doctors, engineers and lawyers.

The protesters at capital Cairo's Tahrir Square continued to stand their ground.

In order to sustain the protests, organisers in both the cities have agreed to come out in their largest numbers on Sundays, Tuesdays and Fridays only.

Waiting to join a protest group in front of Alexandria's Al-Qaed Ibrahim mosque, Ahmed Massoud, a former dean at the Kafr Al-Sheikh University in Tanta, said, "The crowd here has grown everyday. Yet there has been no violence here because Alexandrians are a civilised lot. It was once the cradle of civilisation."

The government officials announced that the stock market, closed since the third day of protests, would reopen on Sunday. New finance minister Samir Radwan announced a 15% raise for public servants which would take effect in April.

Vice-president Omar Suleiman also promised there would be no reprisals against the protesters later.

The Adiyta Birla Group's $275-million Alexandria Carbon Black and $120-million Alexandria Fiber, which have continued regular production throughout the strife, could ship their export consignments on Monday for the first time in 11 days. FMCG firm Dabur said its Egyptian unit has resumed operations after a week's shutdown.

Meanwhile, senior Hamas leader from Gaza, Ayman Nofel, who - like thousands of prisoners around the country - could walk out of Cairo's Al-Marj prison thanks to the utter lawlessness of the previous week, received a hero's welcome back home.