- - Tuesday, October 11, 2011

EGYPT

Finance minister resigns over Cairo protests

CAIRO — Egypt’s finance minister and deputy prime minister resigned Tuesday in protest because of the government’s handling of deadly weekend protests that left 26 dead, most of them Coptic Christians, an aide to the minister said.

Hazem El-Beblawi’s resignation, which state television also announced, is the first by a senior government official since the deadly clashes Sunday night in which a peaceful protest by Christians demonstrating over an earlier attack on a church in southern Egypt by Muslims turned violent.

Mr. el-Beblawi, in a letter to Prime Minister Essam Sharaf, said he was tendering his resignation because of the “government’s handling of Maspero,” the aide said, referring to the state television building, where the Christians were protesting, by its popular name.

He effectively told Mr. Sharaf that he “can’t work like this,” the aide said, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue.

KUWAIT

Kuwait warns strikers, says oil shipping normal

KUWAIT CITY — Kuwait warned striking workers Tuesday that it could recruit outside replacements to confront a wave of labor unrest that has disrupted shipping traffic and threatens the Gulf nation’s critical oil sector.

The extent of the disruption is unclear. An official at the state-run Kuwait Petroleum Corp. said Tuesday that exports of crude oil and other petroleum products were going ahead as normal, according to comments carried on the official state news agency.

Kuwaiti authorities have grown increasingly uneasy during a series of strikes begun last month by civil servants seeking greater pay and benefits - on top of existing perks such as free health care and low-interest personal loans.

The protests mirror other instances of labor unrest rippling through the Arab world as part of a popular push for political and economic reform in the region.

Although Kuwait is the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries’s fourth-biggest oil exporter, officials say the country cannot afford to significantly boost the payroll of its huge public sector.

On Monday, more than 3,000 customs officers joined the strikes, sharply escalating pressure on the government. The open-ended walkout froze shipping traffic in and out of ports and oil terminals. It also disrupted airport and land border-crossing operations.

A union official said the customs workers’ strike continued Tuesday.

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