egypt copts - Reuters - May 15 2011
Egyptian Christians chant slogans as they protest against recent attacks in Cairo May 15, 2011. Photo by Reuters
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What will Cairo's Tahrir Square look like today, at the mass Friday demonstration organized by most of Egypt's protest movements?

The preparations for what has been dubbed "the second revolution demonstration" have heightened the controversy between the revolutionists and the army, and among the revolutionists themselves.

The activists are demanding the Supreme Military Council transfer the rule to a civilian government quickly. Some of them are also demanding a detailed political program and constitutional amendments before the elections due in September. Many are frustrated by the deteriorating personal safety and the police's apparently deliberate inaction against lawbreakers, as well as by the economic situation.

However, the Muslim Brotherhood has said it would not take part in the demonstration, which it sees as an act "against the people" or an attempt to cause tension between the people and the army. The protest movements slam this position, saying the Brotherhood is staying out of the demonstration because it has already achieved its demands. The Brotherhood appears to have made a pact with the army, which does not object to the Brotherhood's political activity, the critics say.

But the Muslim Brotherhood's young guard intends to join the protesters, seeing itself as part of the Egyptian protest movements. These movements are no longer satisfied with ousting the regime and putting the Mubarak family on trial, and are now demanding the establishment of a new regime.

The army said it would not attend the demonstration and trusts the demonstrators to maintain order, while the army protects vital facilities.

The testimony of former intelligence chief Omar Suleiman about shooting at the demonstrators was published yesterday. Suleiman testified that President Hosni Mubarak, who claimed he did not order firing at demonstrators, had known about it and received reports about each shooting incident and each fatality. Despite this, Mubarak did not object to the continued shooting. Suleiman's testimony will be critical to Mubarak's verdict.

Meanwhile, the Military Council has been drafting Egypt's foreign policy. The foreign ministry is examining the possibility of resuming diplomatic relations with Iran and has decided to open the Rafah border crossing. Palestinian sources say opening the border crossing is implementing part of Egypt's promise to Hamas in exchange for signing the reconciliation agreement with Fatah.

"Opening the terminal is a response to the public's demands," wrote an Egyptian commentator, recalling the demonstrations that broke out in Egypt several times in a demand to open the border crossing.

Egypt did not sign the border-crossing agreement in 2005 and does not see opening the terminal as a breach of contract. Opening the crossing could cause the Turkish flotilla planned for June to be called off, as this would render the Israeli blockade on Gaza completely irrelevant.