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Egyptians gather for new anti-Mubarak rally

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

Egyptians gather for new anti-Mubarak rally

CAIRO: Egyptians gathered in central Cairo on Friday hoping to mass another million-strong rally to speed the end of President Hosni Mubarak's 30-year rule.

The United States, long the ally and sponsor of the 82-year-old former general and his politically influential army, were also working behind the scenes to have him hand over power.

Mubarak has insisted his departure would bring chaos. That has not discouraged protesters, ranging from Internet-aware young secularists to the powerful mass movement the Muslim Brotherhood, from declaring the "Friday of Departure."

In Tahrir, or Liberation, Square, the focus of protests and of violence with Mubarak loyalists in the previous two days, there was a festive atmosphere, with soldiers keeping order and the veteran defense minister, Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi, paying a visit and talking to his soldiers.

"Today is the last day, today is the last day!" protesters shouted as Arabic pop songs blared from a bank of speakers: "For Egypt, today is a day a celebration!"

Crowds were expected to build after midday prayers, the focal point of the Muslim weekend in Egypt.

The protesters, from a diverse range of Egypt's 80 million population, hope to encourage the unprecedented million-plus numbers on the streets of the nation's cities that they saw on Tuesday. On that evening, Mubarak announced he would step down, but only in September, when a presidential election due.

Though many Egyptians felt that was good enough, and hoped for a return to normality after the disruptions which began on January 25, many want Mubarak to leave immediately. The United States and its Western allies, while refraining from saying he must quit now, have urged an immediate start to transition.

The armed forces, who have a crucial role to play, appear to be weighing their options, content to let demonstrators have their say in a way never before seen in Egypt. But also not moving directly against Mubarak, and allowing plain clothes loyalists to range the streets and attack protesters this week.

Those camping out in Tahrir Square were welcoming reinforcements through the morning, searching bags and checking for security agents. Tents were scattered around and some had slept on the grass, ready for the planned day of protest.

With the unprecedented challenge to Mubarak's autocratic rule descending into violence, Washington has been urging Egypt to begin the transition of power and move toward elections.

A senior official in the administration of President Barack Obama said various options were being discussed with Egyptian officials, including one in which Mubarak resigned immediately.

"That's one scenario," he said, speaking on condition of anonymity. "There are a number of scenarios, but (it is) wrong to suggest we have discussed only one with the Egyptians."

Category: News , World News



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