Egypt unrest: March of a million people planned to oust Mubarak (Second Lead)

Monday, January 31, 2011

CAIRO - Defiant protesters at a public square here have decided to scale up their uprising and plan to take out a march of over a million people Tuesday to oust Hosni Mubarak, who has ruled Egypt for nearly 30 years.

The plan is to have more than a million people on the streets, Al Jazeera reported Monday.

Several hundred demonstrators remained camped out in Tahrir square in central Cairo early Monday morning, defying a curfew. At least 150 people have died so far in violence linked to the unrest.

The demonstrators had been addressed Sunday by leading opposition activist and former head of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Mohammed ElBaradei who promised that change would come to their country.

“What we have begun today cannot be turned back,” the Nobel Peace Prize winner told the crowd in Cairo’s central Tahrir Square through a megaphone on what he termed an “historic day”.

“We are beginning a new era in Egypt,” thundered ElBaradei.

The anti-government groups said they also aim to talk with the army, a respected body in Egypt.

Egypt’s government said it would negotiate with a wider array of political parties, as observers were watching to see how much determination the opposition and general population would have for keeping up the protests, now in a seventh day, reported DPA.

Protesters were also gathering in their thousands in the coastal city of Alexandria and the port town Suez.

Egypt’s economy was hit from the upheaval with its bonds being downgraded by rating agencies and the country’s stock market to remain closed through Tuesday.

Residents in certain areas of Cairo were reporting rising food and petrol prices. Banks remained closed and cash machines were generally out of funds, after many were looted, making purchasing items more difficult.

In Egypt, a country of 80 million people, the curfews and other disruptions were threatening to hit the meagre earning of people as they were forced stay at home, with many businesses closed.

Protesters have regularly defied the curfew, imposed by the military, which so far is refraining from clashing with the opposition.

The price of crude oil on global markets was rising, owing to concerns about stability in Cairo, an exporter, and a possible contagion to other producers.

The US said it expected events in Egypt to lead to a “transition”, ending with democratic elections.

Gamal Nasser, a spokesperson for the largest opposition grouping, the Muslim Brotherhood, said his group was in talks with ElBaradei and other movements to form a national unity government without President Mubarak or his ruling National Democratic Party.

In the chaos, thousands of prisoners were said to have escaped detention facilities in different areas of the country and had become one of the greatest security concerns for many residents. At least four prisons in Cairo saw jailbreaks.

Early evening Sunday saw military fighter jets and army helicopters flying low overhead in a show of force as the protesters chanted slogans. Tanks were also surrounding demonstration areas, though the soldiers did not interfere with the protests.

Mubarak - who has visited troops, according to state television - has so far reshuffled some top positions and vaguely pledged better economic prospects and freedoms. He later met with military and other officials over new the cabinet appointments.

Importantly, he appointed his former intelligence chief, Omar Suleiman, as vice president - a post that has been vacant for nearly three decades - but many who headed to the streets said it was not enough.

The unrest has caused foreigners to flee in droves, with Western and Arab states saying they will arrange special flights to evacuate their citizens. A great crush was being reported at Cairo airport.

Mubarak Sunday said new Prime Minister Ahmed Shafiq should push forward reform and anti-corruption efforts and restore confidence in the country’s economy.

In remarks carried by official media and cited by Xinhua news agency, Mubarak said Shafiq’s priority is to tame unemployment and create jobs.

“I require you to bring back confidence in our economy” and shore up the country’s subsidy provisions and the campaign against corruption, Mubarak was quoted as saying.

He also stressed the importance of taking new, effective and continuous moves to further political reform through “extensive dialogue” with all parties, including the opposition.

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