CAIRO – Egypt’s regime has offered a string of concessions in the face of the strongest threat yet to its rule, but so far nothing that uproots its entrenched monopoly on power.
In an example of the levers it can pull, the government announced a 15 percent raise Monday for some 6 million public employees – a potent message to almost a quarter of Egypt’s labor force about where their loyalties should lie.
Leading the effort is Vice President Omar Suleiman, a canny former intelligence chief with vast experience in international negotiations, who has promised to carry out change.
However, after talks with Suleiman on Sunday, many protesters and their allies warned the steps toward democratic reform he is offering look more like an effort to divide and conquer the opposition by offering cosmetic gestures.
• U.S. ON MUBARAK: The Obama administration conceded Monday that it will not endorse the demands of Egyptian protesters for embattled President Hosni Mubarak to step down immediately, saying a precipitous exit could set back the country’s democratic transition.
After several days of mixed messages about whether it wants to see Mubarak stay or go, Washington stepped up calls for a faster, more inclusive national dialogue on reform in Egypt.
Under Egypt’s constitution, Mubarak’s resignation would trigger an election in 60 days.
“A question that that would pose is whether Egypt today is prepared to have a competitive, open election,” State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley said.
• google exec had role: The young Google Inc. executive detained by Egyptian authorities for 12 days said Monday he was behind the Facebook page that helped spark what he called “the revolution of the youth of the Internet.”
Wael Ghonim, a marketing manager for the Internet company, wept throughout an emotional television interview just hours after he was freed. He described how he spent his entire time in detention blindfolded. He insisted he had not been tortured and said his interrogators treated him with respect.
“Anyone with good intentions is the traitor because being evil is the norm,” he said.
• death toll: U.S.-based Human Rights Watch told the Associated Press on Monday that two weeks of clashes have claimed at least 297 lives, the highest and most detailed toll released so far. It was based on visits to seven hospitals in three cities.