EGYPT: Vice President Omar Suleiman blames foreigners, opponents for turmoil
Egyptian Vice President Omar Suleiman blamed foreigners and political opponents within the Muslim Brotherhood for 10 days of turmoil that has rocked the nation and cost Egyptians at least $1 billion in lost tourism revenue.
In an interview on state-run television, the No. 2 figure in the leadership of President Hosni Mubarak appeared to take a harder line against regime opponents than did Prime Minister Ahmed Shafiq, who had apologized for a day of brutal attacks on anti-government protesters Wednesday and promised to punish the "infiltrators."
The influential Al Jazeera news agency observed in a commentary that the embattled leadership was adopting a classic "good cop, bad cop" approach to the unrest paralyzing Egypt, with Shafiq seeking to assure protesters that their concerns are being addressed and Suleiman threatening consequences if the disruptions continue.
"Clearly, the Mubarak regime is trying to regain the initiative by either encouraging or directly spreading chaos, confusion and insecurity -- in order to gain the middle ground as the guarantor of national security and stability," the news agency said on its English-language website.
Suleiman said the protests had chased a million tourists out of Egypt in recent days and cost the key industry at least $1 billion -- a warning about the widening economic damage likely to turn tourism workers against the demonstrators.
The vice president appointed by Mubarak five days ago told the protesters to "go home" and let the army and police do their jobs in restoring order in the Middle East's most populous country.
Protesters demanding Mubarak's immediate ouster clashed for a second day with government supporters Thursday but regained control of debris-strewn Tahrir Square, the main battleground of the 10-day-old uprising.
-- Carol J. Williams
Image: Egyptian Vice President Omar Suleiman has blamed political opponents for the continuing unrest in Cairo. Credit: Al-Masriya TV / AFP/Getty Images