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Calm settles over post-Mubarak Egypt as military promises democracy

Egypt's ruling military has promised a transition to democracy - though it remained unclear how or when the transition would occur. Meanwhile, police have quashed protests in other Arab nations.

An Egyptian man clears the street in Tahrir Square in Cairo

Cairo residents tidied Tahrir Square, the center of protests

Egypt's military promised Saturday to oversee a peaceful transition to democratic rule, as the country took its first breaths following 18 days of nationwide protests and the end of now former President Hosni Mubarak's 30 years in office.

"There will be a peaceful transition of power to the government when the environment allows for a freely elected government that governs the land by democracy," a military spokesman said.

Mubarak's cabinet will remain in place until a new government is formed, according to an announcement by the Higher Council of the Armed Forces, to whom Mubarak ceded power when he resigned on Friday.

An Egyptian woman sings patriotic songs by herself as she walks along the street outside the Egyptian Museum

Cairo residents cheered and sang patriotic songs to celebrate the beginning of the post-Mubarak era

The Council also said Egypt would respect its past international agreements, in a bid to alleviate Washington and Israel's fears.

"The Arab Republic of Egypt is committed to all regional and international obligations and treaties," a senior army officer said in a statement on state television, outlining the armed forces' broad strategies at home and abroad.

Israeli Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz welcomed the statement from Egypt, which became the first Arab nation to recognize the Jewish state in a 1979 peace treaty.

US President Barack Obama "welcomed the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces' announcement today that it is committed to a democratic civilian transition, and will stand by Egypt’s international obligations," the White House said in a statement.

Islamist opposition movement Muslim Brotherhood, viewed warily by many Western powers, praised the army's announced plans to bring in democratic rule and said it would not seek power.

Meanwhile, after all-night celebrations that followed Mubarak's departure, thousands of people gathered again Saturday in Cairo's central Tahrir Square.

Many civilians worked together to tidy the square - which served as the epicenter for the opposition rallies that toppled Mubarak's rule.

Civilians and soldiers worked together to remove road blocks in the area, while Cairo residents photographed each other holding flowers next to smiling soldiers, marking the first day of the post-Mubarak era.

An Egyptian flashes a newspaper fronted by a celebration photo and Arabic title People removed the regime

A man proudly flashes the headline: 'People removed the regime'

Some pro-democracy activists said they would continue demonstrating in Tahrir Square until the Higher Military Council accepts their agenda for democratic reform, including a dissolution of parliament and the lifting of a 30-year-state of emergency used by Mubarak to crush dissent.

Return to order

The army's first decision on Saturday was to shorten the curfew imposed in Cairo, Alexandria and Suez to last from midnight to 6 a.m. local time, as businesses and banks were expected to open for normal hours on Sunday, the first day of the working week in Egypt.

Cairo stock exchange officials said their bourse would reopen on Wednesday, after being closed for nearly three weeks.

Meanwhile on Saturday, the new administration took measures to prevent senior government officials from leaving the country, announcing plans to investigate them for possible abuses and corruption.

Travel bans and asset freezes were announced for 40 politicians, including former Prime Minister Ahmed Nazif and the much-despised former Interior Minister Habib al-Adly. Egyptian Information Minister Anas al-Fiqi was also placed under house arrest, broadcaster al-Arabiya quoted army sources as saying.

Future remains uncertain

civilians and army officers taking pictures at Tahrir Square

Both civilians and army officers were seen taking pictures of the historic day

The military council gave few concrete details of its plans for Egypt's "transitional phase" and released no timetable for presidential or parliamentary elections.

Meanwhile, the tumultuous events in Egypt and those that preceded them in Tunisia continued to send shock waves abroad. Police and security services in Yemen and Algeria quashed pro-democracy demonstrations in Algiers and Sanaa.

In the Yemeni capital, Sanaa, an opposition demonstration by some 2,000 people broke up Saturday after clashes with pro-government demonstrators armed with knives and batons. In Algiers some 30,000 police were deployed to stop dissidents from staging a march against the government.

Author: David Levitz (dpa, Reuters)

Editor: Sean Sinico

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