News & Election Videos

Saboteurs blow up gas pipeline as Egypt's Mubarak clings to power+

The Associated Press

(Kyodo) _ A major natural gas pipeline in Egypt's northern Sinai Desert carrying gas toward Israel and Jordan was blown up Saturday, the state-run Middle East News Agency reported.

MENA quoted Egyptian television as saying the pipeline was attacked by saboteurs and that several more explosions followed the first.

Reuters quoted a state TV reporter as saying, "It is a big terrorist operation."

MENA reported the army had cut the flow of gas to the pipeline at the source as teams worked to extinguish fires that followed the blast.

Subsequent reports said the attack struck a part of the pipeline carrying gas to Jordan. The Israeli section was not hit, but gas flow was interrupted to prevent damage.

The explosions came as tens of thousands of Egyptians remained in Tahrir Square in the capital demanding President Hosni Mubarak stand down and democratic elections be called.

But the president, in an apparent attempt to show he remains at the helm, met with several ministers Saturday to discuss the on-going crisis, MENA said.

Mubarak, 82, has said he will not contest the presidential election set for September, but the protesters and many in the international community want him gone well before the autumn.

The United States, Britain and Germany have all called for a transition to democracy to begin soon and Japan has stressed the need for a calm and democratic end to the crisis, now in its 12th day of demonstrations across much of the country.

Prime Minister Ahmed Shafiq told al-Arabiya television on Friday that it was essential Mubarak remain in office for some time to prevent a descent into chaos.

MENA quoted him Saturday as saying the president cannot leave office while he follows on "basic needs" and measures to restore calm.

But it is ever more clear many do not to wait long for change.

Part of the problem, however, is who might replace the president.

The military has ruled Egypt in various forms since the monarchy was overthrown in 1952 and the opposition is extremely fragmented, not least because draconian laws over the decades were designed to prevent any serious challenges to the status quo.

Business, which has been largely shut in much of the country since shortly after the massive demonstrations began in Cairo's Tahrir Square more than a week ago, is supposed to resume Sunday and the stock market is to reopen on Monday.

But any sense of normalcy accompanying the reopening of the banks and markets on Sunday appears unlikely.