Egypt sees Clinton remarks as ‘interference’

Hillary ClintonCAIRO: The Egyptian foreign minister said on Wednesday that Egypt would not accept any interference in its internal affairs, in response to criticism by U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on the way security forces dealt with women protesters.

In a speech on Monday, Clinton criticised the actions of Egyptian security forces as showing the “systematic degradation” of women that “disgraces the state”, some of the strongest U.S. language used against Egypt’s new rulers.Footage showed Egyptian soldiers beating protesters with batons, often after they had fallen to the ground, in what activists described as a forcible attempt to clear a sit-in demanding a swifter transfer to civilian rule. The clashes since Friday have left at least 13 dead and hundreds wounded.

“Egypt does not accept any interference in its internal affairs and conducts communications and clarifications concerning statements made by foreign officials,” the state news agency quoted Foreign Minister Mohame d Kamel Amr as saying.“Matters like that are not taken lightly,” he was quoted as saying, in his response to a question about Clinton’s remarks.A video of Egyptian soldiers dragging a woman protester on the ground by her black full-body veil, exposing her bra, then clubbing and kicking her has sparked outrage. Thousands marched on Tahrir square on Tuesday to condemn the attacks.

Activists have called for a major protest on Friday to demand an apology for the attacks on women.The United States, which saw deposed leader Hosni Mubarak as a staunch ally, gives Cairo $1.3 billion a year in military aid, a commitment that began after Egypt in 1979 became the first Arab state to make peace with Israel. Egyptians turned out to vote again on Wednesday in the run-off of a staggered election marred by deadly clashes between protesters and security forces that have left 14 people dead in five days.

Polling stations opened at 8:00 am (0600 GMT) in a third of the country’s 27 provinces with a visibly lower turn out than previous rounds, AFP reporters said.The run-off in the second round of legislative polls, which takes place over two days, will see the two largest Islamist parties go head to head for 59 seats of the lower house.

The ruling military has decided on a complex election system in which voters cast ballots for party lists, which will comprise two thirds of parliament, and also for individual candidates for the remaining third of the lower house.On Wednesday, voters are choosing individual candidates in nine provinces as well as party lists in three provinces where voting was postponed due to administrative problems in the opening phase. – Nation