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A massive crowd of Egyptians has returned to Tahrir Square in Cairo one week since the ouster of U.S.-backed dictator Hosni Mubarak. Organizers had called for a "Friday of Victory and Continuation" to celebrate Mubarak’s departure and maintain the struggle for democratic reform. The latest figures from the Egyptian health ministry show at least 365 people were killed and more than 5,500 injured in the Mubarak regime crackdown.
The Obama administration initially opposed the Egyptian popular uprising but now continues its attempt to save face. On Thursday, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said the United States will redirect aid to help the transition.
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton: "The United States stands ready to provide assistance to Egypt to advance its efforts. I’m pleased to announce today we will be reprogramming $150 million for Egypt to put ourselves in a position to support the transition there and assist with their economic recovery. These funds will give us flexibility to respond to Egyptian needs moving forward."
Funerals are being held in Bahrain today for the victims of a Bahraini government attack on a pro-democracy protest. On Thursday, heavily armed riot police surrounded thousands of demonstrators as they slept in a central square in the nation’s capital. Rubber bullets, tear gas and concussion grenades were fired into the crowd without warning. At least six people were killed and hundreds injured. Bahrain’s main hospital has been flooded with victims. Speaking to Al Jazeera, a Bahraini doctor said he was nearly beaten to death.
Reporter: "Did you tell them you were a doctor?"
Dr. Sadak Al Ekri: "Yeah, but they don’t listen. And I was wearing the uniform for the doctors, you know, that one with the crescent. Then they tie me and they attack me."
The Bahraini government has staunchly defended the crackdown on pro-democracy protests. On Thursday, Bahrain’s Special Envoy to the United States, Latif Al-Zayani, was interviewed by CNN’s Candy Crowley.
Candy Crowley: "There does not seem to have been any harm done on the other side of this conflict. And yet we’re told that three protesters were killed. Is it possible that this was an overreaction? Could it have been dealt with in some other way?"
Latif Al-Zayani: "No, actually. In our procedure, we always use force that is proportional. The force was proportional. The minimum possible tear gas was used to be effective enough to disperse the people."
Bahrain is a key U.S. government ally in the Middle East, hosting the U.S. Navy’s Fifth Fleet. In Washington, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton expressed "concerns" over the attack on protesters.
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton: "The United States strongly opposes the use of violence and strongly supports reform that moves toward democratic institution building and economic openness. I called my counterpart in Bahrain this morning and directly conveyed our deep concerns about the actions of the security forces, and I emphasized how important it was that, given that there will be both funerals and prayers tomorrow, that that not be marred by violence."
Funerals are also being held in Libya today for the victims of a government crackdown on protests in several towns. At least five deaths have been confirmed, but there are reports the toll could be as high as 50. The largest rally was held in the city of Benghazi, where thousands took to the streets to denounce Colonel Muammar Gaddafi’s 41-year rule.
Clashes are continuing in Yemen after over a week of protests against U.S.-backed President Ali Abdullah Saleh. On Thursday, government loyalists attacked a crowd of more than 6,000 protesters in the capital Sana’a. At least five people were wounded. According to Al Jazeera, witnesses reported seeing government forces delivering batons and stones to the pro-government side.
The Iraqi government is calling on the United States to pay $1 billion for damages to the capital city, Baghdad. The bill is not for the destruction caused by years of bombings dating back to the first U.S. invasion of Iraq in 1990, but for wrecking Baghdad’s infrastructure in the years since the 2003 invasion. The Iraqi government says the U.S. government’s Green Zone, blast walls and military convoys have inflicted serious damage on Baghdad, turning much of the historic city into a dilapidated war zone.
Congress has given final approval to a measure extending three expiring provisions of the USA PATRIOT Act until May. President Obama is expected to sign the bill into law.
In Ecuador, both sides in the lawsuit over Chevron’s contamination of the Amazonian rain forest have filed challenges to a verdict reached earlier this week. On Monday, an Ecuadorian judge ordered Chevron to pay an $8.6 billion fine, and an equal amount in punitive damages, for dumping billions of gallons of toxic oil waste into Ecuador’s rain forest since the 1970s. The Amazonian plaintiffs in the case say the amount is too low, while Chevron has denounced the ruling as "illegitimate." Chevron spokesperson James Craig accused the judge in the case of collaborating with the plaintiffs.
James Craig: "It seemed obvious that there was going to be a judgment against the company and that it was going to be basically managed and directed by the plaintiffs’ lawyers, so we expected something along these lines. But obviously it’s not something we’re going to sit down and accept. So we do definitely plan to appeal."
Chevron has also filed challenges against the Ecuadorian government and the plaintiffs in U.S. and international courts. Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa accused Chevron of conducting a smear campaign to delegitimize the lawsuit.
Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa: "The government has not had anything to do with it. Our system of justice is absolutely independent. However, the strategy of Chevron to delegitimize the process — it seemed that they knew they were going to lose — was to erode, to accuse the Ecuadorian government of getting involved in this trial, which we were promoting."