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Huge crowds turn out for Mubarak ‘departure day’

By Agence France-Presse
Friday, February 4, 2011 8:13 EDT
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CAIRO – Egyptian protesters massed Friday for sweeping “departure day” demonstrations to force President Hosni Mubarak to quit after he said he would like to step down but fears chaos would result.

Tens of thousands filled Cairo’s central Tahrir Square, the epicentre of the 11 straight days of protests that have shaken the pillars of Mubarak’s three-decade rule, on the Muslim day of rest.

At one end of the square the faithful prayed out in the open, beneath two traffic lights from each of which hung an effigy of Mubarak.

“We were born free and we shall live free,” prayer leader Khaled al-Marakbi said in his sermon. “I ask of you patience until victory.”

Worshippers used newspapers, banners or even Egyptian flags as impromptu prayer mats, reciting the traditional prayer for the dead in memory of the more than 300 people who have died since the protests erupted, sending shock waves around the world.

The prayer leader and many in the vast open-air congregation cried, still shaken by the ferocious clashes with stone-throwing Mubarak supporters that had left at least eight people dead and more than 800 hurt over the previous two days and drawn a stern rebuke from Washington for its key ally.

There was a new pro-government rally on Friday in the upscale Mohandeseen neighbourhood of the capital but it was attended by dozens of people rather than the tens of thousands in Tahrir and participants told AFP they had no intention of going to the square.

The army deployed about a dozen vehicles around the perimeter to create a buffer zone in case pro-Mubarak demonstrators appeared, although AFP correspondents had seen none by early afternoon.

Troops wearing helmets and full riot gear and protest stewards wearing hard hats carried out identity checks at entrances to the square to prevent it being infiltrated by provocateurs.

Defence Minister Mohammed Hussein Tantawi — regarded by Washington as a key plank of any post-Mubarak administration — visited the square to appeal to demonstrators to give up their protest.

The authorities have been appealing to demonstrators to go home after Mubarak pledged earlier this week not to seek re-election in September.

But opposition groups from across the political spectrum have dismissed the concession as inadequate and have rejected calls by Vice President Omar Suleiman, Mubarak’s veteran intelligence chief, to enter talks.

“The man (Mubarak) told you he won’t stand again,” Tantawi told the protesters flanked by troops, who urged the crowd to be seated.

Tantawi called on Egypt’s most powerful opposition group, the Muslim Brotherhood — outlawed for half a century — to join a dialogue with the regime.

“Tell the guide to go sit down with them,” he said, referring to the group’s supreme guide Mohammed Badie.

Badie told Al-Jazeera television that the Brotherhood stood ready to enter talks, but only after Mubarak had gone.

“We stand with all the political forces supporting dialogue with whoever wants to implement reforms in the country after the departure of this unjust, corrupt tyrant,” he told the Qatar-based satellite channel.

“We have a single demand. Once it is met, we will engage in dialogue.”

And Mubarak’s onetime foreign minister, Arab League chief Amr Mussa, said he doubted his former boss would leave any time soon.

“I do not think he (Mubarak) will leave. I think he will stay until the end of August,” Mussa told France’s Europe 1 radio.

In his first interview since the protests erupted, Mubarak blamed the Muslim Brotherhood for the violence of recent days, ABC television’s Christiane Amanpour reported.

The veteran leader 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,” Amanpour said.

“He told me that he is troubled by the violence we have seen in Tahrir Square over the last few days but that his government is not responsible for it. Instead, he blamed the Muslim Brotherhood.”

Washington has been increasingly strident in its criticism of the deadly violence unleashed against the protesters, and foreign journalists, by Mubarak supporters in recent days.

State Department spokesman Philip Crowley said Washington had traced the violence against the protesters to “elements close to the government and the ruling party” even if it is not clear how far “up the chain” it goes.

UN human rights chief Navi Pillay demanded an investigation.

But in an interview with US network ABC, Suleiman denied that pro-government elements had been responsible for deaths among the protesters, insisting: “They behaved very well.”

Washington has been pushing proposals for the vice president to take over at the head of a transitional government, which would immediately begin a process of constitutional reform aimed at paving the way for free and fair elections in September, the New York Times reported.

“Senior administration officials said that the proposal was one of several options under discussion with high-level Egyptian officials around Mr Mubarak in an effort to persuade the president to step down now,” the paper said.

“They cautioned that the outcome depended on several factors, not least Egypt?s own constitutional protocols and the mood of the protesters on the streets of Cairo and other Egyptian cities,” it added.

And for at least some of the protesters in Tahrir Square on Friday, the replacement of Mubarak by Suleiman would not be enough.

“Suleiman is the same system,” said Ragab, the owner of an advertising agency had joined the protest with his on Ammar 14.

“Suleiman is a good person but he is the same system. Any person can be president, a woman, a Muslim, a Copt, but we want the system out.”

Egypt’s regional rival Iran weighed in meanwhile, calling Mubarak a “servant” of Israel and urging the Egyptian people to rise up and establish an Islamic republic.

“Do not back down until the implementation of a popular regime based on religion,” supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said in his sermon at the main weekly Muslim prayers in Tehran, switching from Persian to Arabic for the benefit of his Egyptian target audience.

“Inshallah (God willing) part of the Egyptian army will join the people,” he said, adding that the “main enemy of the Egyptian army is the Zionist regime and not the people.”

This video is from CBS News, published Friday, Feb. 4, 2011.

Agence France-Presse
Agence France-Presse
AFP journalists cover wars, conflicts, politics, science, health, the environment, technology, fashion, entertainment, the offbeat, sports and a whole lot more in text, photographs, video, graphics and online.
 
 
 
 
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  • Anonymous

    Well, apparently the excitement of the Superbowl, and the related social plans, just took up too much time this week to pay attention to what was fast becoming a botched attempt at a coup.

    Obama is emerging as the failed Globalist Ambassador to the Muslims, willing to topple any government, in the streets, in a thuggish manner, under the most questionable circumstances, and in the most dangerous manner, to the Egyptian people, and those around the area. As long as HE AND THE GLOBALISTS can continue to consolidate power, with any willing group. Not to be trusted.

    What he, and Shillary and the rest of the clowns, are asking for, is that a standing government, which is already in a very difficult, almost pre-war state, to simply vacate the government, walk out the door, and leave they keys to power, weapons, the treasury and peoples lives. Nuts. Time to shut up.

    Mubarak is emerging as a man of steel. Not to defend the bad behavior, but if this man can hold his ground, under this kind of pressure, than he deserves better treatment. I wonder if ElBaradei would have been as strong. And he might even have set a new tone for the rest of the area, on how to avoid a coming meltdown.

    The military is emerging as an example to the world of BEST behavior. Amazing. I hope our soldiers are watching. ANYONE can be blamed for violence, even those who did nothing, (i.e., Tucson). Even Obama knows how to do that one…

    The protesters are emerging as used and abused. Its reasonable to demand new elections AND that a certain person not run again. That is even MORE than fair. They achieved an important goal by getting new elections, Mubarak not to run, and got a VP appointed, who can act in interim. But to demand that a government dissolve itself into the streets, on a moments notice, is appearing irresponsible. Its not SAFE. Time to go home.

    And for O-Banana… At least there’s the Superbowl, and the campaign… and lobster.

  • Anonymous

    I could not disagree more. Mubarak and his regime must go NOW. There can be no other way to ensure democracy in Egypt.

    Mubarak and his entire administration are corrupt and despotic. Suleiman was the regime’s top spy, and you want him to take the reins? Of course they don’t want to give up power, it’s fucking POWER. This dictatorship has too much blood on is hands. They offer peaceful discourse yet they send their paid bullies to use violence to silence dissent.

    Getting Mubarak not to run for re-election is a piss-poor cop out. With 8 more months of power he and his ilk could do all sorts of things to ensure the status quo is unaffected by an election. Strike while the iron is HOT.

    Throw him out now, immediately, PDQ, anon, at short notice, double-time, forthwith, hereupon, in a New York minute, in a flash, in a jiffy, in nothing flat, instantaneously, like now, on the double, pronto, rapidly, right now, straight away, summarily, thereupon, this instant, this minute, unhesitatingly, urgently, without delay, and without hesitation. Thank you online thesaurus.

  • Anonymous

    Here is a link from “knot” that describes this:

    http://imgur.com/TCNOH

  • H.P. Loathecraft

    “The military is emerging as an example to the world of BEST behavior.”
    Bullshit. Away from the cameras the military are arresting and detaining journalists. One reporter last night described how thugs were trying to break into their rooms to destroy their gear in the hotel and they called the local military commander who sent in troops to ostensibly guard their floor. A half hour later the troops disappeared and they called the base and were told off the record that they were “on their own”. The apparent action/inaction of the military is part of a concerted PR campaign the regime is running for international consumption. Apparently it’s being consumed uncritically.

  • Anonymous

    In related news, Zero Crowds turned out to protest Iraq.

  • Anonymous

    You are a despicable human being — a supporter of torture and murder. As for Obama, he is clearly supporting the regime as his handlers instruct. By refusing to cut aid or call for M’s ouster, he has given the tyrant the green light to murder and otherwise abuse the Egyptian people.

  • Rush Goofbaugh

    I really don’t want to rain on your parade… but isn’t democracy a bit of a myth? We haven’t got it here… soooooo what makes anyone think they are going to get it there?

  • http://twitter.com/scalpingelmo William Hinds

    You hush up and vote for those selected for you by your betters! As a simple cog in the machine, how could you possibly know the difficulty that a potential leader would face as they ride around in armored luxury, eating food that costs more than your yearly discretionary budget.

    /sarcasm

  • Anonymous

    “”Suleiman is the same system,” said Ragab, the owner of an advertising agency had joined the protest with his on Ammar 14…..”

    exactly. they all have to go and probably will, like in tunisia where the gov’t changed hands several time except for the prime minister who was appointing people. the protests won’t end until the regime is gone. DC wants suleiman but he is tainted and surely wouldn’t be much better than mubarak. he’s washington’s man, not whom the egyptians will or would choose. several prominent people have put forth the names of others, like amr mousse head of the arab league and former foreign minister, or sami anan, commander of the armed forces, to take over the provisional gov’t. which obviously will include all sectors of the society.

  • Anonymous

    This is truly a people’s uprising that is spreading throughout the Middle-East and likely to go worldwide. Millions in Egypt demand that Mubarak leave now and Obama/Clinton still cannot make a firm statement that Mubarak leave? They cannot stop funding this criminal regime? Useless! Useless! Our leaders are shit.

    Let governments around the world tremble in fear! All power to the Egyptian people! All power to the people of Tunisia; the people of Yemen, Algeria, and Jordan. All power to the Palestinians. It’s over Israel and America. Every government in the world, you are done. We shall rule ourselves!

    The whole world is Tahrir Square! Rise up! Rise up!

  • H.P. Loathecraft

    And who the fuck are you to decide what’s best for the Egyptian people? And you are wrong about the military. The military is arresting journalists all over the place. The ostensible and public behavior of the military is choreographed for the dim-witted and the ill-informed. Apparently it’s working.

  • Anonymous

    Here are two excellent editorials on Egypt’s budding revolution from the last couple days:

    This one by Fidel Castro:

    http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article27404.htm

    And this one by Jayne Lyn Stahl:

    http://onlinejournal.com/artman/publish/article_6883.shtml

    And here’s George Galloway speaking about these events two days ago:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Qe7367yueAY

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