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Egypt VP tells protesters to go home, clashes rage

By Haris Afzal on Friday, February 4, 2011 with 0 comments

Egypt VP tells protesters to go home, clashes rage
CAIRO: Deadly clashes between opponents and partisans of Hosni Mubarak raged for a second day on Thursday as Egypt's vice president urged protesters to go home, criticising their demands for the president's ouster as a "call for chaos."

That was echoed by the 82-year-old veteran president himself, who told media he was "very unhappy" about the fighting and that he would like to step down but feared chaos would engulf the country.

On Tuesday night, Mubarak announced that he would not run for election to a sixth term in September, but said he would finish his mandate so he could guarantee an orderly transition.

He said he was "fed-up with being president and would like to leave office now, but cannot, he says, for fear that the country would sink into chaos," Christiane Amanpour reported after an interview in Cairo.

"I don't care what people say about me. Right now I care about my country, I care about Egypt," Mubarak said as violent protests against his rule stretched into a 10th day.

The veteran leader added: "I was very unhappy about yesterday. I do not want to see Egyptians fighting each other."

But while many protesters have accused government agents of provoking the latest violence, Amanpour said Mubarak "told me that... his government is not responsible for it."

Instead, she said he blamed the powerful Muslim Brotherhood.

Vice President Omar Suleiman, addressing protesters hunkered down in Cairo's Tahrir Square, said: "End your sit-in. Your demands have been answered."

The newly appointed second in command and former head of the country's intelligence services also suggested that attacks on protesters that have killed least five people and injured hundreds could have resulted from a plot.

"We will look into (the violence), into the fact it was a conspiracy," Suleiman said, adding that it could have been instigated by some "with foreign agendas, the Muslim Brotherhood, certain parties or businessmen."

Yet in the same interview on state television, he said the banned Muslim Brotherhood had been invited to join talks between the government and opposition aimed at ending the protests.

That offer was rejected, as was an earlier one by Prime Minister Ahmed Shafiq to go to Tahrir Square and talk to the protesters.

Amid the political manoeuvring, pro- and anti-government forces battled for control of the square which has been the epicentre of protests that erupted on January 25.

The health ministry said five people were killed and at least 836 hurt in the latest fighting. A media tally puts the death toll at nine, including an unidentified foreigner beaten to death there on Thursday afternoon.

Suleiman's firm words were in contrast to those of Shafiq, who apologised for the deadly violence that has rocked the square and surrounding areas, thought by many to have been sparked by government agents provocateurs.

"Egyptian hearts are bleeding," he said, and promised an inquiry.

The new premier also said he was "ready to go to Tahrir Square to talk to the protesters" in a reversal of the government's previous stance.

But virtually no one in the opposition is willing to talk.

Amr Salah, a representative of those organising the Tahrir demonstrations, told media they "will not accept any dialogue with the regime until our principal demand is met, and that is for President Hosni Mubarak to step down."

Spokesman Mohammed Mursi said "the Muslim Brotherhood categorically rejects any dialogue with the regime without any hesitation.

"The people have brought down the regime and we see no point in any dialogue with an illegitimate regime," he said.

And the National Association for Change rejected any talks with the regime before Mubarak goes, spokesman Mohammed Abul Ghar told media.

"Our decision is clear: no negotiations with the government before Mubarak goes. After that, we're ready for dialogue with Suleiman," he said.

The association includes leading dissident and Nobel peace laureate Mohamed ElBaradei, Muslim Brotherhood members, the Kefaya (Change) movement and other political parties.

Undaunted by what they say has been a regime campaign of intimidation, the protesters say they will proceed with plans for a massive demonstration on Friday, their designated "departure day" for Mubarak.

The latest violence broke out early on Wednesday afternoon, raged through that night and was continuing sporadically into Thursday night.

A medical official, Dr Mohsen Abdulfatah, told media that at least 300 people were wounded on Thursday alone.

Regime supporters mid-afternoon Thursday took over the 6 October Bridge over the Nile, which opens into the square. They threw firecrackers at the protesters, who fell back and then regrouped, shouting at the army for failing to intervene.

At 8:00 pm (1800 GMT) some 100 regime supporters remained on a bridge, chanting pro-Mubarak slogans and occasionally throwing stones at protesters.

Category: News , World News



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