Egyptian authorities alarmed by scale of anti-U.S. rallies

Thursday, February 27, 2003

CAIRO Egypt has raised its security alert during massive anti-U.S. rallies in cities around the country.

Officials said authorities have been alarmed by the size of anti-U.S. rallies. These demonstrations have attracted numerous opposition politicians, union leaders, students and clergy.

Officials said the alert has resulted in the bolstering of Egyptian security forces and the introduction of anti-riot units in major cities, Middle East Newsline reported.

The alert was one of a series of measures meant to bolster security in Cairo and major Egyptian cities. This includes the extension of emergency laws by parliament in a move meant to prevent anti-U.S. rallies in the country.

Officials said authorities have boosted security around major Western embassies, particularly the U.S. and British embassies. They said authorities would not allow any demonstrations in front of the U.S. and British facilities.

In addition, authorities have arrested leaders of the frequent anti-U.S. and pro-Iraqi demonstrations held in Alexandria and Cairo. A leading figure in the demonstrations, Kamel Khalil, has been detained.

On Monday, parliament, by an overwhelming majority, extended by the state of emergency for another three years. The state of emergency was imposed in 1981 in wake of the assassination of President Anwar Sadat and maintained ever since.

Egyptian Interior Minister Habib Adli said the state of emergency is an important tool in the country's war against terrorism. In a briefing to parliament's Defense and National Security Committee, Adli said terrorism has increased throughout the world and security authorities must remain vigilant.

In Washington, the Bush administration expressed concern that Egyptian authorities would abuse the state of emergency. Officials said Egypt appears to have referred dissidents and other civilians to military tribunals for offenses not connected to terrorism.

"We have had serious concerns that we have often raised with the government of Egypt concerning the manner in which that law has been applied," State Department deputy spokesman Philip Reeker said.

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