Middle East

Egypt strike to mark Mubarak overthrow 'fails'

A protester shout slogans during a demonstration against Egypt's military rulers
Image caption Protests against Egypt's military rulers have intensified in recent months

Calls by Egyptian activists for a day of strikes and civil disobedience to mark the first anniversary of President Hosni Mubarak's overthrow appear to have very little impact.

Strikes at universities attracted small numbers of protesters, and public transport in Cairo ran as normal.

The action aimed to pressure the ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (Scaf) to hand power to civilians.

The Scaf earlier said "plotters" were trying to undermine the Egyptian state.

It warned they would bring "chaos and destruction" to Egypt.

The Scaf has promised to hand over power after presidential elections in June, but opposition groups have been calling for an immediate transfer of power.

In a separate development, Gen Martin Dempsey, chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, held talks in Cairo with the Scaf leader, Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi.

It was the first meeting between top US and Egyptian officials since Cairo said last week it would put on trial 43 people - including Americans and other foreigners - over the funding of non-governmental organisations.

The Scaf accused foreign groups of funding street protests against them.

'Rights of revolution'

On Saturday, about 100 students gathered outside the main building of Cairo University, chanting "Down with military rule!"

Similar protests were reportedly held at more than 30 public and private universities across the country.

Members of Egypt's revolutionary groups also took part in the strike.

"We are starting to use civil disobedience as a weapon once more to get us the rights of the revolution," Ramy el-Swissy, spokesman for the April 6 Youth Movement, told the BBC.

"We want the revolution to stay peaceful. We have logical demands but the military council does not listen or respond," he added.

However buses and other public transport ran as normal in the capital and there was no disruption at Egypt's airports.

The industrial action also had no impact on the Suez Canal, one official was quoted as saying by Reuters.

Many Egyptians do not work on Saturdays as it is weekend, and many people across the country are now weary of protests and turmoil, the BBC's Yolande Knell in Cairo reports.

The Muslim Brotherhood, which won the largest number of seats in recent parliamentary elections, earlier said it would not back the protests because they would hurt the economy.

The Scaf's claim that the strikes could destabilise the country appears to have also struck a chord with many Egyptians, our correspondent adds.

Scaf warning

The ruling generals - who have lost popularity since they took over last year - said they would not yield to threats, or bow to pressure to speed up the transition process.

However, activists said they were now planning to begin a campaign of strikes in universities and workplaces.

Mr Mubarak stepped down on 11 February last year after 18 days of street protests in which hundreds were killed.

He is on trial accused of ordering the killing of demonstrators, charges he denies.

The military took power under the leadership of Field Marshal Tantawi. Following a protracted election process, a new parliament dominated by Islamist parties held its first session earlier this month.

However, protests and unrest have continued, most recently with the deaths of 74 people after a football match in the city of Port Said and at least four others in ensuing demonstrations.

In its statement broadcast on Friday evening, the Scaf warned against conspiracies, saying the army had played a vital part in the revolution.

"We are facing plots against the nation aiming to undermine the institutions of the Egyptian state, and to topple the state itself so that chaos reigns," the message said.

The Scaf also confirmed that presidential elections were on course to take place in June.

Thousands of protesters demonstrated outside the defence ministry on Friday, calling for a swifter transition to civilian rule.

In the year since Mr Mubarak was toppled, Egypt's economy has been battered. The country is haemorrhaging about $1bn (£638m) a month in foreign currency reserves, and the Egyptian pound has fallen to new lows.