Page last updated at 11:14 GMT, Sunday, 4 May 2008 12:14 UK

Egypt strike fails to make impact

Egyptians crowd a bread shop in Mahalla (file photo)
Food costs have risen sharply in Egypt in recent months

There is heightened security in the Egyptian capital, Cairo, following a call by activists for a strike in protest against rising food prices.

Extra police were also deployed in the Nile Delta town of Mahalla el-Kobra, which saw clashes last month between striking textile workers and police.

A BBC correspondent in Cairo, however, says there is little sign that people are observing the strike.

It was called to coincide with the 80th birthday of President Hosni Mubarak.

The BBC's Heba Saleh in Cairo says that apart from the large numbers of police deployed in major squares and intersections, life in the city appears normal, with heavy traffic and people going about their business.

"It's normal right now, I don't see any change from an average day," a Cairo shopkeeper told AP news agency.

"It seems most people ignored the call," he added.

The government had warned that dissent would not be tolerated.

Soaring prices

A coalition of groups and individuals called for a general strike, largely through the social networking site Facebook.

The Muslim Brotherhood, Egypt's largest opposition movement, endorsed the strike and urged its members to support the protest.

Organisers had called on Egyptians to stay at home, and if they did have to go out, to wear black as a symbol of mourning for the country's future.

Food costs have risen sharply in Egypt in recent months, in line with rising global commodity prices.

Some prices of basic goods have almost doubled, provoking widespread unease and anger.

Protesters and police in Cairo - 6/4/2008

The planned protest coincides with the 80th birthday of President Hosni Mubarak, who has been in power since 1981.

President Mubarak has ordered the army to help with bread production and recently announced a public sector pay increase of 30%.

There were two days of clashes with riot police after the security services prevented textile workers from carrying out industrial action during a day of protests last month.

Hundreds of people were arrested and many are still in police custody.

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