Mubarak supporters show up at anti-govt rally

A demonstration on Sunday to commemorate the second anniversary of the war on Iraq turned into a vocal stand-off between hundreds of supporters and opponents of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak.

It was the first appearance by pro-Mubarak demonstrators in months of anti-government protests. Thousands of riot police separated the two rallies, which lasted about two hours and ended peacefully.

About 150 Mubarak supporters, mainly members of his ruling National Democratic Party, shouted: “No to America and no to Israel, there is no alternative to Hosni Mubarak” and “No American hegemony, reform is a popular will”—a reference to United States urgings for democratic reforms in the Middle East.

Some carried banners reading “Egypt’s leadership and people opposed the war on Iraq” and “Lift your hands off Iraq”.

Many Egyptians still oppose the occupation of Iraq, and anti-American sentiments have increased since the war.

Though their anti-war sentiments were in line with the other protesters just metres away, the Mubarak supporters pointed accusatory fingers at the other group, calling them “agents” and “mercenaries”.

Many of the approximately 250 opposition protesters wore white stickers reading “No to Mubarak” alongside the round, bright yellow stickers of the Kifaya (Enough) movement, which started the anti-Mubarak protests in December.

The group waved Egyptian and Iraqi flags and chanted for Iraq, Syria and Lebanese resistance. “Occupation is not freedom,” read a banner in English, with red drops of blood painted on it.

“Down and death to America!” some shouted.
“Down with Israel!”

The opposition rally was mainly made up of members of the leftist Tagammu and Nasserite parties and the banned Islamist Labour party.

Some of the Islamists, wearing green sashes, shouted: “There is no God but God! The Zionists and Mubarak are the enemies of God.”

Egypt has recently witnessed several emboldened demonstrations.

The Kifaya movement has demanded an end to Mubarak’s rule—he has been president since 1981—and called for changes in the Constitution to allow for multicandidate elections, term limits and other election changes.

On February 26, Mubarak ordered a constitutional amendment to allow more than one candidate to run in September’s presidential race.

But the opposition group on Sunday carried a large banner that read: “Amendments are not enough. We want change.”—Sapa-AP