The following are the day's top general news stories:
1. Mubarak Meets Military Commanders as Protesters, Looters Disregard Curfew 2. Egyptian Antiquities Safe After National Museum's Looting, Official Says 3. Thai Coalition Ahead in Polls, Ready for Election This Year, Abhisit Says 4. Clinton Visits Haiti Beset by Undecided Election, Delayed Earthquake Aid 5. Novak Djokovic Says He May Be Ready to End Federer, Nadal Grand Slam Era
1. Mubarak Meets Military Commanders as Protesters, Looters Disregard Curfew
Egyptian protesters demonstrated for a sixth day, defying a curfew and demanding the resignation of President Hosni Mubarak, who conferred with top military commanders. "Tonight is your last night Hosni Mubarak," a crowd gathered in Cairo said repeatedly. They also chanted slogans against his Jan. 29 appointment of former air force commander Ahmed Shafik as prime minister and Omar Suleiman, the country´s intelligence chief, as vice president. Fighter aircraft flew over the crowd yesterday and almost two dozen tanks could be seen in the city center. Some soldiers waved flags and chanted along with the protesters. The demonstration came as soldiers tried to regain control from looters of streets lined with charred stores. The unrest was a sign that Mubarak´s appointment of the first vice president since his rise to power in 1981 and his naming of a new premier may not placate protesters as they put former military officers in the top three jobs. "It´s too late," Amr Hamzawy, research director and senior associate at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, said by telephone from Cairo. "I don´t think that appointing Suleiman as vice president or Shafik as prime minister is going to do it."
2. Egyptian Antiquities Safe After National Museum's Looting, Official Says
The Egyptian National Museum is safe, and cultural artifacts damaged by vandals who broke into the building during anti-government protests can be restored, the head of the country´s Supreme Council of Antiquities said. Tourism police aided by protesters earlier apprehended nine men in connection with looting at the museum, Zahi Hawass, the council´s secretary general, said yesterday. Dozens of demonstrators had stood guard around the building, one of Cairo´s biggest tourist attractions, to protect it until troops arrived, he said. "If you shut the lights in New York City for one hour, the people will rob everything in all the shops," Hawass said in an interview at his office. "What´s happening is normal. Thankfully, all the damaged items can be restored." Tens of thousands of people gathered in the city´s Tahrir Square and across the country demanding that President Hosni Mubarak step down, and most of the city´s historic sites, including the pyramids, remained off limits to the public.
3. Thai Coalition Ahead in Polls, Ready for Election This Year, Abhisit Says
Thailand´s ruling coalition is leading in opinion surveys and ready for an election that will bring stability and redress complaints that spawned violent protests since 2008, Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva said. "Looking at the polls, the government is slightly ahead," Abhisit told Bloomberg Television in Davos at the World Economic Forum, without naming the polls and adding that a win can´t be taken for granted. "What´s good for the country is that we have free, fair elections soon, and the Democrat party and the government is ready to fight those elections." Abhisit, 46, is aiming to lead his Democrat party to its first election win in about two decades, a result that would allow him to counter criticism from opponents aligned with former leader Thaksin Shinawatra that he lacks a popular mandate. Disputes over the outcome of the last election in 2007 fueled protests in the country of 67 million citizens that killed about 100 people and soured the investment climate. Abhisit took power in a 2008 parliamentary vote after a court disbanded the pro-Thaksin ruling party for election fraud. He has twice called on the military to disperse protesters aligned with Thaksin known as the Red Shirts who have pushed for an election, most recently last May in demonstrations that claimed about 90 lives and led to arson attacks in Bangkok. "The elections themselves would be a partial if not a complete answer to those grievances," Abhisit said in the interview, recorded on Jan. 28 and broadcast today. "Once the elections are done, the Red Shirts will have to admit that we´ve gone through a round of a democratic process, and therefore whoever wins the election should have the right to govern."
4. Clinton Visits Haiti Beset by Undecided Election, Delayed Earthquake Aid
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton arrived in Haiti to meet with presidential candidates and discuss how best to maintain government stability as the outcome of the country´s presidential election remains undecided. Clinton said she will tell Haiti´s politicians that the international community backs a report by the Organization of American States that found popular musician Michel Martelly won by a narrow margin over Jude Celestin, the candidate backed by Haitian President Rene Preval. "I want to emphasize that this is an international message that we stood behind the OAS when they sent down independent technical experts to evaluate the outcome of the election," Clinton told reporters traveling with her. "I´m going to be carrying that message, but I´ll also be listening." Clinton earlier appeared on U.S. Sunday morning talk shows to urge elections in Egypt, where tens of thousands of demonstrators are demanding the ouster of President Hosni Mubarak.
5. Novak Djokovic Says He May Be Ready to End Federer, Nadal Grand Slam Era
Novak Djokovic said he may be ready to challenge the Grand Slam supremacy of Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal after claiming his second Australian Open title. The Serb beat Andy Murray 6-4, 6-2, 6-3 last night in the first Grand Slam tennis final without Federer or world No. 1 Nadal since Djokovic´s 2008 victory over France´s Jo-Wilfried Tsonga at Melbourne Park. "I don´t want to stop here," Djokovic, 23, told reporters. "I want to keep my body healthy, fit, and ready for some more challenges to come. I feel that I have a good game for all the surfaces. I have proven that in the past." Djokovic has now ousted Grand Slam record holder Federer in consecutive major semifinals. After reaching September´s U.S. Open final by saving two match points to beat the Swiss, he went on to lead Serbia to its first Davis Cup title last month.
-0- Jan/31/2011 00:35 GMT