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Protesters block rail lines to Cairo

ASSIUT, Egypt — Thousands of brick workers blocked railroad tracks from a southern city to Cairo for a second day Sunday to protest rising industrial oil prices, causing the cancellation of some services, security officials said.

The government lifted industrial fuel oil subsidies last week as part of a reform program, prompting labor protests by quarry and brick factory workers.

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Egypt has been gripped by unrest in recent days, partially because of public discontent with new government measures designed to deal with a crippling budget deficit. But the unrest has also been political, as criticism of President Mohammed Morsi’s government increases.

Opponents accuse Morsi and his government of failing to tackle Egypt’s myriad problems and of monopolizing power. The government says political bickering has hindered its ability to manage a serious economic crunch.

Khaled el-Hawari, a marketing executive in one of the brick factories, said industrial fuel oil prices increased by 50 percent, threatening the business and the lives of hundreds of workers who could be laid off. A security official said negotiations with the brick workers have continued, allowing some trains coming from the capital to get through to the south, but causing a large backlog of trains in Cairo. Nearly 20 train trips to Cairo were canceled.

The official said the workers removed tracks for trains heading one direction near Beni Suef, 70 miles south from Cairo, and put wood planks on the other.

A worker at the Beni Suef station said thousands of disgruntled passengers had to rely on road transportation. He spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk to the media.

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