Egypt’s military council to amend elections law, considers abolishing state of emergency

Field Marshal Tantawi says Egypt will be among greatest nations

Presidential hopeful Amr Moussa discredits plans to divide Egypt into smaller states

Yemeni president insists on remaining in power, renews commitment to Gulf initiative

U.S.-born Awlaki death confirmed

Polished steel rifles jangled as soldiers performed a drill before a small crowd to celebrate the anniversary of the October 1973 war with Israel, at a time of discontent with Egypt's military.

"God is the Greatest, and long live Egypt!" yelled a spectator before a military brass band outside the Egyptian Museum launched into the national anthem.

Overhead, fighter planes and bombers in formation roared past the Mogamma complex at the other end of Tahrir Square, startling the pigeons which roost in the vast Soviet-style government building.

Sami Mursi, 60, watched the jets go by with swelling pride.

"It reminds me of the first bullet that was fired in the war," said the battle-scarred air force veteran. "I feel just like when the war started."

The day has been celebrated with pomp every year since Egypt launched the surprise war, in tandem with Syria, to regain territory which the Arab states lost to Israel in the devastating 1967 Six-Day War.

The result was a stalemate.

But in Egypt it is considered an astounding victory. It helped nudge Egypt and Israel into signing a 1979 peace treaty -- the first between the Jewish state and an Arab country.

And it was on this day 30 years ago when fighter jets at a military parade distracted president Anwar Sadat as an Islamist army officer who opposed the peace treaty sprinted up to the stand and shot him dead.

Former air force chief and vice president Hosni Mubarak took over power. Under his rule, Egyptians never warmed to Israel. This year the anniversary came as the military, in power since a popular revolt ousted Mubarak in February, finds itself under growing fire from activists and political parties demanding a clear transition to civilian rule.

Rights activists also accuse soldiers of torturing detainees and stifling the press, charges the military has denied.

The military brass band in Tahrir Square, epicenter of the revolt that overthrew Mubarak, came after a broadcast speech by Egypt's military ruler Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi.

"The youths of this generation are a continuation of the October (war) generation, which has a sense of responsibility for the greater national good when they contributed to achieving victory through great sacrifices," he said.

Mursi, who revealed shrapnel scars on his head and torso as he reminisced about the war, said he hoped this anniversary would "reconcile the military with the people."

But for activists such as Rasha Azab, who says she was beaten by soldiers who set up a makeshift prison in the Egyptian Museum after a protest in March, Tantawi's words rang hollow.

The journalist and veteran campaigner said she respected "simple soldiers who fought to liberate our lands" such as Mursi.

But she accused the military leadership which took over from Mubarak of exploiting the anniversary of the war and the revolt against the president, himself a 1973 war hero.

"It no longer defends land and honor. It defends its own political interests," she said.

Tantawi has repeatedly pledged the military will cede power after Egypt holds a presidential election, expected to take place in 2012.

"Our great people, which rejected defeat and the Setback (in the 1967 defeat) and liberated every inch of its sacred territory is capable of crossing this difficult, sensitive and decisive period," Tantawi said in his speech.

He said Egypt would become "a civil, modern state, based on peaceful democracy."

Meanwhile, Egyptian president hopeful Amr Moussa called on the ruling military council to hand power over to a civilian government by the middle of next year.

The ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces last week said parliamentary elections in the country would start Nov. 28.

A new Parliament would be installed in April with presidential elections scheduled for late 2012.

Moussa, former Arab League secretary-general, said a civilian government should take control sooner than that, Egyptian newspaper Al-Masry Al-Youm reports.

Several political parties last week expressed outrage over a SCAF decision to set one-third of the parliamentary seats aside for independent candidates. Critics expressed concern this would give members of the former ruling National Democratic Party another chance to play a political role in Egypt.

SCAF officials met during the weekend with 13 political parties to examine a deal that considered the banning of NDP officials from politics, the end to emergency rule and revisions in the electoral law.

SCAF has endured criticism over its oversight of the transition process that followed the collapse of Hosni Mubarak’s regime early this year. Political parties had threatened to boycott upcoming elections as an expression of their frustration.

Mazhar Shaheen, the sheikh delivering the sermon for Friday prayers in Tahrir Square, called on the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) to apply the Treachery Law to former National Democratic Party (NDP) members and other corrupt figures in order to ban them from being seated in the next parliament. He also called for ending the state of emergency and amending the law regulating the upcoming parliamentary elections.

After Shaheen mentioned the "oath of loyalty to the revolution," thousands of protesters participating in the “Friday of Reclaiming the Revolution” chanted: "We swear by the Almighty to protect our revolution, its goals and demands, to live for it and die for it."

The Treachery Law must be activated, as Egyptians will not accept a single corrupt member of the Mubarak regime in the coming parliament, he continued.

“The day we will see one of them in the parliament we will call to dismantle the body,” he said, calling on officials to follow the right path as people will not accept if their demands are ignored.

If people were able to dissolve the former parliament, then they surely can dissolve the coming parliament if it is rigged as well, he said.

He also called to prevent former NDP members from participating in politics for 10 years, as the coming parliament will form the basis of the new state.

"How could those who corrupted the country take part in drafting the new constitution?" he asked.

The Tahrir preacher reminded that the revolution was peaceful and must remain peaceful. He said that those trying to distort the image of the revolution are paid thugs.

"We are the owners of our home, Egypt, and no one can take it from us after today," he said.

Protesters have not attacked the police or the military, Shaheen emphasized, but are actually victims of the paid thugs who have aimed to drive a wedge between the people and the armed forces.

He warned officials who follow the same policies of the former regime, saying that the people are the ones who have allowed them to reach power, so they can also dismiss them if they are dissatisfied.

Shaheen criticized the state media for hosting "counter-revolutionaries" who accuse the revolution of damaging the "wheel of production" in the country. He said the revolutionaries can dismantle the Information Ministry and dismiss the information minister if he continues to follow old policies.

He also called to examine the files of the companies and firms that looted public money under privatization laws, including cement and steel firms.

At the end of his speech, Shaheen renewed his call to activate the Treachery Law, saying, "The revolution does not request, but orders, to activate the Treachery Law, amend the law regulating parliamentary elections and abolish the Emergency Law."

Hundreds of Christian Copts protested outside the state television building on Tuesday after a church was burned in the southern Aswan district and demanded that the governor be sacked, the channel reported.

A church was burned down on Friday in Merinab village after Aswan provincial governor Mustafa al-Sayyed was reported as saying Copts had built it without the required planning permission, the television reported.

The protesters also demanded the release of blogger Michael Nabil, 26, who was sentenced to three years' hard labor in April by a military court for having "insulted" the army in his writings.

Amnesty International in a statement on Tuesday said Egypt's ruling military was responsible for the life of the blogger, who was on the 43rd day of a hunger strike, after his appeal hearing was adjourned to October 11.

"Civilians should never face trial before military courts, which are fundamentally unfair, as they deny defendants basic fair trial guarantees, including the right to proper appeal," said Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, Amnesty's Deputy Director for the Middle East and North Africa said.

"It seems that little has changed since the ‘January 25 Revolution’. The Egyptian authorities must urgently act to rectify the injustice done to this blogger whose life is in danger after his wrongful imprisonment."

Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi, a former defense minister, took charge of Egypt when a popular uprising ousted President Hosni Mubarak in February.

He heads the ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, which has been under fire for the slow implementation of promised reforms in the Arab world's most populous country.

Sectarian clashes are frequent in Egypt where Copts, who make up 10 percent of the 80-million-strong population, have been the target of attacks and have repeatedly accused the authorities of systematic discrimination.

In Yemen, President Ali Abdullah Saleh said in an interview published on Friday that he will only step down if key rivals do not take over, a stance that could further hinder a long-stalled deal to ease him out of power.

"Because if we transfer power and they are there, this will mean that we have given into a coup," Saleh told The Washington Post and Time magazine.

Saleh has hung onto power despite eight months of mass protests demanding an end to his 33-year rule and a June assassination attempt that sent him to Saudi Arabia for three months of treatment for severe burn injuries.

His surprise return to Yemen last week halted negotiations over a Gulf-brokered transition plan that had been revived despite days of heavy violence in the capital.

Over 100 people have been killed in violence that has rocked Sana’a two weeks. Loyalist troops have been fighting with the forces of rebel General Ali Mohsen and the fighters of tribal leader Sadeq al-Ahmar, both of whom have joined the opposition.

Saleh wants Mohsen, whose defection in March dealt a great blow to the president, and Ahmar and his brother Hamid to be excluded from power. That could prove difficult as Hamid al-Ahmar has expressed an interest in the presidency and Mohsen commands a large force around the country.

Diplomats have been working on a plan under which Saleh's family, Mohsen, and the Ahmar clan would back off and perhaps leave the country. Mohsen has expressed approval.

Saleh said his party was not slowing down a deal and blamed the opposition for the delay. He also said he would not run in an early election envisaged by the Gulf transition plan.

"As for me, I will retire - since the opposition has helped bring the president closer to retirement through the criminal act that happened at the presidential mosque," he said.

Saleh hinted that Mohsen and Ahmar clan members could be implicated in the bombing of his compound which left him scarred and severely burned, saying they could face prosecution pending the results of a U.S. investigation into the attack.

The veteran leader, who has three times backed out of signing the Gulf initiative, urged the international community to have more patience in reaching a deal, and brandished the specter that without him Islamist parties and al-Qaeda's Yemen-based wing might increase their sway.

Foreign powers fear rising turmoil on the doorstep of Saudi Arabia, home to the world's largest oil reserves. Islamist militants, emboldened by the unrest, have seized several cities in a province that lies east of a major shipping lane.

"But what we see is that we are pressed by America and the international community to speed up the process of handing over power," Saleh said. "And we know where power is going to go. It is going to al-Qaeda, which is directly and completely linked to the Muslim Brotherhood."

Opposition groups accuse Saleh of giving militants more leeway in a ploy to frighten Western powers and convince them that he is the best defense against al-Qaeda.

Islamist forum members expressed disbelief that a CIA drone killed the U.S.-born preacher Anwar al-Awlaki on Friday, but said if al Qaeda confirmed the death he would be remembered as a "great martyr."

The bespectacled Awlaki, who spoke fluent idiomatic English and Arabic, was identified by U.S. intelligence as "chief of external operations" for al Qaeda's Yemen branch and a Web-savvy propagandist for the Islamist cause.

U.S. officials said he was killed in a CIA drone attack in a remote town in the northern al-Jawf province, which borders oil giant Saudi Arabia.

"I hope and pray that this news is false," said Umm Taymiyah, on the English-language Islamic Awakening forum.

"A great martyr has entered the fold of great martyrs inshallah (God willing)," said Nadeemio, another member of Islamic Awakening. "A great way to die for the sake of Allah - by the arrow of the worst of kuffar (apostates)."

Some posts scolded those who cited media reports of Awlaki's death, arguing they should wait for a statement from al Qaeda media outlets, who usually post official confirmations on Islamist forums within a few days of an attack.

"Is there any benefit in spending your time posting threads for the Crusader media? Do you know that, when you post a thread about the Mujahideen you will be held accountable for this on judgment day?," said one message on the English-language Ansar AlJihad Network.

"The important lesson to implement here is never ever trust al kuffar!" said an Islamic Awakening member. The 40-year-old preacher Awlaki, who the U.S. licensed for kill or capture last year, was seen as playing an influential role in bringing in Western recruits and activating "lone wolf" operators, such as Nidal Malik Hasan, who went on a 2009 shooting spree against U.S. soldiers at Ft. Hood, Texas, killing 13. Hasan had been in email contact with Awlaki.

New York City police said they were on alert to possible revenge attacks following Awlaki's death, but the main Islamist websites did not appear to be carrying calls for revenge.

Arabic Islamist forums had fewer postings about the slain New Mexico-born preacher than English-language ones, which some analysts attributed to the fact that Awlaki's core base were English-speaking Islamists who drawn to militancy.

Awlaki's greatest claim to fame for Arabic speaking militants, said Yemen scholar Gregory Johnsen, was the U.S. citizen's evasion of capture.

"He was known as someone capable of escaping CIA attacks. The more the United States focused on Awlaki, the more he was pushed to the front by al Qaeda--he was free advertising."

The Arabic Islamist forum "I am Muslim" had one thread on Awlaki, with most posts expressing skepticism at the news. "If he was killed, we ask God to accept him as a martyr. If he is alive, we ask God Almighty to make him a thorn in the throats of the enemies of Islam," said member Habib bin Adi.

On Islamic Awakening, some members expressed dismay at what they said was a "War on Islam" that would never end. "The truth of the matter is that these kuffar will not leave you alone just because they've killed a few targeted men," said Chicago Salafiyyah on Islamic Awakening.

"These kuffar (infidels) aren't going to stop killing and invading us just because Bin Laden, Awlaki...etc are dead," the poster wrote. "The war on Islam will continue."