Thousands of protesting workers block railroad lines to Cairo

ASSIUT, Egypt (AP) - Thousands of brick workers blocked railroad tracks from a southern city to Cairo for a second day on Sunday to protest rising industrial oil prices, causing the cancellation of some services.

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

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 Mursi's government is on the rise.

A security official said negotiations with the brick workers 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 cancelled. The official said the workers removed tracks for trains heading one direction near Beni Suef, 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, as vehicles and minivans crowded outside the train station to pick up the backlog. The security official said some trains travelling from Cairo were passing through.

Hundreds of workers in a quarry in the province of Kafr el-Sheikh, north of Cairo, stormed the local government building, forcing its staff to evacuate. The workers are demanding permanent employment in the factory. They chanted against the recently appointed local governor, a member of the Muslim Brotherhood, Mr Mursi's political group. Security only arrived later to the building, and evacuated the protesting workers, a security official said.

Residents of the coastal city of Port Said, at the northern tip of the Suez Canal, pressed their general strike, which entered its second week on Sunday. The city has practically come to a halt as thousands of workers from the main industrial area joined the strike.

Port Said residents are angered by the killing of more than 40 residents in clashes with security forces in the city following a court order they deemed unjust. The protesters are demanding a thorough investigation into what they say was the security agencies responsibility, and Mr Mursi's political responsibility, in the killing of civilians. The government so far has promised a new investigation, but it has yet to begin.