Protesters disperse as Egypt's military set to ban strikes

Last Updated: Mon, Feb 14, 2011 11:20 hrs

Cairo, Feb 14 (IANS) Egypt's military leaders are set to ban strikes and act against 'chaos and disorder' to restore order following protests that led to President Hosni Mubarak's ouster, as security forces tried to remove the final protesters from Cairo's Tahrir Square.

A military official said the Supreme Council of Armed Forces would issue an order Monday that would ban meetings by labour unions or professional syndicates and forbid strikes, and tell all Egyptians to get back to work, Al Jazeera reported.

A few dozen protesters, who had held out in Cairo's Tahrir (or Liberation) Square till Monday morning, said they had then been told by the army to leave or face arrest.

The new military rulers have vowed to dissolve parliament and suspend the constitution.

Thousands of protesters have already left the square, hailing the army's announcements as a clean break from the old regime, the BBC reported.

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

Mubarak quit Friday after 18 days of mass rallies.

Military police Monday pressed the few dozen remaining protesters in Tahrir Square to leave. There were also a few arrests.

Monday has been declared as a bank holiday in an attempt to return the situation to normal, after workers disrupted operations at the country's main state banks.

Banks will reopen Wednesday, as Tuesday is also a public holiday, Al Jazeera said.

Reports said some employees, emboldened by the success of protesters, were 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 Sunday.

'The military said they will go after corrupt people no matter what their position current or previous,' Ghonim said.

'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,' he said.

A statement was read out on state television 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 Mubarak.

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

The opposition's Ayman Nour, who challenged 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'.

In the northern city of Alexandria, people also began to get back to work.

Protest organisers have, however, threatened more rallies if the military council fails to accept their agenda for reform.

'If the army does not fulfil our demands, our uprising and its measures will return stronger,' said Safwat Hegazi, a protest leader.