Middle East

Egypt crisis: Protesters leave Tahrir Square

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Media captionJeremy Bowen reports on army attempts to reclaim Cairo's Tahrir Square

Egyptian security forces are removing the final protesters from Cairo's Tahrir Square after the new military rulers vowed to dissolve parliament and suspend the constitution.

Thousands had already left the square, hailing the army's announcements as a clean break from the old regime.

The military said it would stay in power for six months or until elections could be held.

Egypt's President Hosni Mubarak quit on Friday after 18 days of mass rallies.

'Sincere desire'

For a second morning running, military police had pressed the few dozen remaining protesters in Tahrir Square to leave.

The BBC's Jon Leyne in Cairo says the military cajoled and pressured the demonstrators and there were a few arrests.

He says some people had been questioning why the protesters were still there after having achieved their aims.

Our correspondent also says that the bigger challenge facing the military rulers may be a possible wave of strikes.

The military is urging people to return to work to try to get the country back to normal but it instructed banks to remain closed on Monday following the strike threats. Tuesday is a public holiday.

There are also reports the military may prevent meetings by labour unions or professional organisations, effectively banning the strikes.

Correspondents say some employees have been emboldened by the success of protesters and are now seeking the removal of the bosses they blame for what they consider to be huge earnings gaps in their companies.

One key activist, Wael Ghonim, said there had been an encouraging meeting between the military and youth representatives on Sunday.

"[The military] said they will go after corrupt people no matter what their position current or previous," Mr Ghonim reported.

He added: "We felt a sincere desire to protect the gains of the revolution and an unprecedented respect for the right of young Egyptians to express their opinions."

'Victory for the revolution'

On Sunday, a statement was read out on state TV from the higher military council, saying it would suspend the constitution and set up a committee to draft a new one, which would then be put to a popular referendum.

The country's constitution has prevented many parties and groups from standing in elections, leaving Egypt with a parliament packed with supporters of the National Democratic Party, loyal to Mr Mubarak.

During the transition, the cabinet appointed by Mr Mubarak last month will go on governing, submitting legislation to the army chiefs for approval.

The opposition's Ayman Nour, who challenged Mr Mubarak for the presidency in 2005, described the military leadership's steps as a "victory for the revolution".

Caretaker Prime Minister Ahmed Shafiq said his main priority was to restore the country's security.

"Our main concern now as a cabinet is security - we need to bring back a sense of security to the Egyptian citizen.

"Parallel to that we also want to ensure that the daily life of all Egyptians goes back to normal and that basic needs like bread and healthcare are available."

He said that the country had enough reserves to weather the economic crisis, but that if instability continued there could be "obstacles".

Earlier, Mr Obama welcomed the new military leadership's statement aired on state TV on Saturday, which implicitly confirms that the country's 1979 peace treaty with Israel will remain intact.

Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu also welcomed the announcement, saying the treaty was a cornerstone of Middle East stability.

He will meet the visiting chairman of the US military's Joint Chiefs of Staff, Adm Mike Mullen, on Monday to discuss the Egyptian situation.

Adm Mullen arrived in Israel from a meeting with King Abdullah of Jordan, which has also been hit by protests in the wave of Middle Eastern unrest.

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