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Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Egypt's interior minister seeks riot-control budget as food prices spike

CAIRO — Egypt's government is seeking emergency funding for security forces in anticipation of riots over rising food prices.

"Since December 2007, food prices have risen by 50 per cent, a matter that should prompt the increase of allocations," Deputy Interior Minister Maj. Gen. Jihad Yusuf said.

Officials cited labor unrest and the bread shortage, which has resulted in several deaths over the past two months.

In a briefing to parliament, Yusuf said the ministry was spending more money on advanced security equipment meant to quell riots, Middle East Newsline reported. The official cited communications systems, plastic shields, tear gas and other non-lethal weapons.

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So far, Prime Minister Ahmed Nazif has agreed to increase the budget of the Interior Ministry. Yusuf said the Finance Ministry has allocated 1.18 billion Egyptian pounds, or about $220 million for 2008. The overall budget of the ministry was reported at $1.63 billion.

But Yusuf said this was not enough for the needs of Egyptian security forces. He said most of the anti-riot gear and other security equipment were being purchased in euro, which has significantly increased against the dollar over the last year.

Officials said Egypt has been recruiting villagers for the police and security forces. They said officers, many of them drafted for three years, were being trained to rapidly arrive at demonstrations and disperse protesters.

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