Monday’s papers: Suleiman talks, ‘Sunday of Martyrs,’ Obama’s changing stance

Monday’s state-owned papers focus on the government’s efforts to pave the way for democratic reforms through holding talks with both independent and opposition parties. Scenes of solidarity between Muslims and Copts in Tahrir Square meanwhile dominate the headlines of independent papers.    

Yesterday was the “Sunday of Martyrs,” which marked the beginning of a week of steadfastness with protesters hoping to topple Mubarak, whose pledge to end his 30-year-rule this coming September dashed their hopes but failed to disperse them.

For its lead story, Al-Shorouk reports that on Sunday thousands of Muslims prayed for the "25 January Martyrs," who lost their lives during the past 13 days of protests. The prayers were followed by a great mass attended by thousands of Coptic Christians.

According to the independent paper, Coptic protesters issued their first statement in which they announced, “We [Copts and Muslims] are all united in the name of martyrs’ blood…Both Christians and Muslims are gathered here for a unified purpose which is the departure of the regime.”  

Al-Dostour, another independent paper, displays a picture of both Christians and Muslims holding hands and carrying copies of holy Qurans and crosses. “A hundred thousand Muslims protect Christians during their prayers in Tahrir Square,” reads the paper’s headline. The protesters stood side by side chanting national unity slogans, says the report.

Al-Ahram’s front page sheds light on the talks held yesterday between Omar Suleiman, the newly-appointed vice president and former head of state intelligence, with opposition groups and six representatives of the 25 January youth to discuss the protesters' demands in an attempt to reach a common ground between both sides.  

In an unprecedented move, Muslim Brotherhood members agreed to join talks with Suleiman after his invitation to all opposition parties and movements including the group to participate.

The Muslim Brotherhood, which is known as a banned group, has long suffered from a tense relationship with the regime, targetted with violent crackdowns and continued detentions. Apparently, however, Egypt’s largest Islamic group is entering a turning-point phase with the government after their “first negotiation process.”

Although the Muslim Brotherhood was banned in 1954, its members were allowed to participate in the country’s political life but within limits.

Mohamed ElBaradei, the former director of the International Atomic Energy Agency and a prominent opposition figure, has not taken part in the negotiations since he was not invited to, according to his recent interview on NBC.

A statement issued by the vice president’s office, as reported by Al-Ahram, lists the agreements reached within the meeting between government and delegates of opposition parties.

According to Al-Ahram, the statement starts off by highlighting the necessity of addressing the protesters’ demands immediately and seriously. The agreement stipulates that a committee of judicial authority must be formed comprised of political and expert figures to discuss and study the necessary legislative and constitutional amendments, the end of Emergency Law when the security situation improves in Egypt, and running an office to receive complaints regarding political detainees and any other political trends.

Reporting on the same story, Al-Akhbar says that Suleiman succeeded in convincing a number of opposition and independent groups to agree on an orderly transition and allow President Hosni Mubarak to stay in power until the end of his term.

The involved parties also agreed on forming a national committee of public figures and representatives of the 25 January youth movement to ascertain the implementation of the agreed decisions.     

Al-Shorouk’s front page features a report on the coalition of the Angry Youth Revolution, who held a press conference yesterday announcing their willingness to form a National Salvation Front. The coalition, according to the report, represents the demands of youth protesting in Tahrir, among which is the ouster of President Mubarak. The independent paper quotes Ziad al-Alami, one of the activists of the coalition, as saying, “We will not allow more corruption to control our country and will keep protesting till Mubarak steps down.” Al-Alami added that more than 500 protesters have been arrested since the beginning of the 25 January protests and called for their release.

Finally, Al-Ahram reports that Barack Obama said, “Egypt is not going back to the way it was…The Muslim Brotherhood does not have the majority's support.”

The US president backed away from his previous statements urging a speedy the transition process before the end of Mubarak’s term next September. Obama’s sudden change of stance was obvious in his statement to Fox News, in which he said, according to Al-Ahram, “Mubarak is the only person who knows what to do to confront the daily protests.”

Egypt's papers:

Al-Ahram: Daily, state-run, largest distribution in Egypt

Al-Akhbar: Daily, state-run, second to Al-Ahram in institutional size

Al-Gomhorriya: Daily, state-run

Rose al-Youssef: Daily, state-run, close to the National Democratic Party's Policies Secretariat

Al-Dostour: Daily, privately owned

Al-Shorouk: Daily, privately owned

Al-Wafd: Daily, published by the liberal Wafd Party

Al-Arabi: Weekly, published by the Arab Nasserist party

Youm7: Weekly, privately owned

Sawt al-Umma: Weekly, privately owned

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