CAIRO, July 10 (Reuters) – Egypt’s Suez Canal is operating normally despite days of sit-ins and protests near the vital waterway, a Suez Canal Authority official told the state MENA news agency on Sunday.
About 1,000 people blocked the main road from Suez city to the canal and nearby Tawfik port on Saturday after a speech by Prime Minister Essam Sharaf fell short of the demands of many Egyptians who want to speed up the trials of ousted President Hosni Mubarak and of police officers who killed protesters.
Demonstrators, complaining that similar promises had been made in the past, threatened to stop workers from entering the canal and to seize canal authority offices.
Another protest halted operations at Adabiya port on the Red Sea on Sunday, a port official said. Demonstrators blocked cargo trucks from entering and leaving the port and prevented staff from getting to their offices.
But traffic through the canal was proceeding normally, Ahmed El Manakhly, head of traffic at the authority, told MENA.
“The canal is working in cooperation with the armed forces to secure entries to the canal,” he added.
Soldiers used batons to disperse protesters blocking a road connecting Cairo with the Red Sea town of Ain Sokhna, south of the city of Suez, after the demonstrators tried to pitch tents alongside the road, witnesses said.
They said demonstrators hurled stones at the soldiers and brief scuffles broke out, but there were no immediate reports of casualties.
A military official told MENA they had opened the road with “the approval of the protesters” after they agreed to clear the area.
The protesters in Suez were coordinating with activists in Cairo’s Tahrir Square who have pledged to stay camped out until army rulers sweep out corruption and swiftly try police officers who killed protesters.
The protests first erupted in the centre of Suez, a city at the southern entrance to the canal, on Wednesday when a court upheld a decision to grant bail to 10 policemen on trial for killing protesters in the uprising that toppled Mubarak.