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Egyptian Protesters Intensify 'Go Mubarak' Campaign

Cairo, Feb 9: A threat of either "dialogue or coup" held out by Egypt's emerging strongman and Vice President Omar Suleiman infuriated anti-government protesters, who stepped up their 'Go Mubarak' stir and attempted to storm
PTI February 09, 2011 22:32 IST
PTI
Cairo, Feb 9: A threat of either "dialogue or coup" held out by Egypt's emerging strongman and Vice President Omar Suleiman infuriated anti-government protesters, who stepped up their 'Go Mubarak' stir and attempted to storm the country's Parliament today.

Thousands of protesters -- who staged their biggest rally yesterday since the demonstrations demanding embattled President Hosni Mubarak's immediate ouster began on January 25-- ignored a government plan to transfer power in an orderly manner and continued their sit-in on the Tahrir Square, the hub of unrelenting rallies against the regime in the heart of Cairo.

In a fresh move to broaden their movement, several hundred protesters attempted to block entrance to the Parliament building in the capital city, but were stopped by heavily-armed soldiers.

Unable to rush into the premises, the protesters squatted in front of the gates of the Parliament building blocking entry and later announced that they would not allow lawmakers from the ruling National Democratic Party (NDP) to go inside.

"We will die here till our demands for departure of Mubarak are met," the protesters said.

Ayman Nour and Mohammed ElBaradei, the opposition leaders, strongly assailed the warning from the Vice President that if the movement does not enter negotiations, a "coup" could take place, causing greater chaos in the country.

"If dialogue is not successful, the alternative is that a coup happens, which would mean uncalculated and hasty steps including lots of irrationalities," Suleiman told editors of state and independent newspapers last night.

The comments from the powerful Vice President appear to be a possible hint at imposing military law. However, some pro-government newspapers' editors said the reference could also be to a possible takeover by state institutions or Islamist groups.

The protests against 82-year-old Mubarak's autocratic regime got a fresh impetus after Wael Ghonim, the 30-year-old Google Inc marketing manager who was a key organiser of the online campaign that sparked ongoing demonstrations, joined the rallies yesterday.

"We will not abandon our demand, and that is the departure of Mubarak's 30-year regime," Ghonim, who was released on February 7 following his detention on January 27, told the crowd.

The US has, meanwhile, called on Egyptian government to carry out an "immediate" and "irreversible" transition process in the country, while emphasising the need to broaden dialogue with opposition groups.

US Vice President Joe Biden, in a telephonic conversation with Suleiman, urged him to restrain the Ministry of Interior's conduct by immediately ending arrest, beating, and detention of journalists, political and civil society activists, and by allowing freedom of assembly and expression, and rescinding of the emergency law which is in place since 1981 when Mubarak came to power.

Vowing to support an orderly transition that is prompt, meaningful, peaceful and legitimate, Biden took note of steps the government of Egypt has pledged to take in response to the opposition and urged it to take immediate action to follow through on its commitments, the White House said.

The White House also acknowledged that transition to democracy in Egypt was not going to be easy.

"This is not going to be an easy road. There will be bumps along the way," its Press Secretary Robert Gibbs told reporters in Washington, when asked about the progress being made in transition towards a true democracy in the country.

"It's important the process that the government undergoes through negotiations with those that seek the representation that they deserve be done in a way that's broadly inclusive. We're not here to determine who leads Egypt," he said.

Notwithstanding a series of concessions offered by Mubarak's regime like pay hikes, a free media and promise of lifting of emergency curbs, the protesters have vowed to intensify their struggle till they end his rule.

The protests, which entered the 16th day today, have so far left 300 people dead. PTI