Riot police deployed in force on Monday to prevent the protesters from leaving the campus to rally in the adjacent Tahrir Square. No clashes were reported.

The crowd carried placards demanding "No renewal" of Mubarak's mandate.

"We are demanding our constitutional rights, above all our right to democracy and the lifting of the state of emergency," rally organiser Bassam Khalifa said.

"The state of emergency gives the regime the power to deprive us of our rights, muzzle the press and people, and deprive us of the right of assembly, and enables the authorities to carry out arbitrary detentions and torture," he said.

Since the imposition of the emergency following the assassination of president Anwar al-Sadat in 1981, the authorities have generally tolerated public demonstrations only on university campuses or outside mosques.

New group formed

Separately on Monday, Egyptian activists formed an opposition group in Europe seeking to remove Mubarak from office by mobilising public support and international pressure.

"The state of emergency gives the regime the power to deprive us of our rights, muzzle the press and people, and deprive us of the right of assembly, and enables the authorities to carry out arbitrary detentions and torture"

Bassam Khalifa,
Student rally organiser

Ahmad Sabar, spokesman for the Save Egypt Front, said the group would coordinate with opposition factions inside Egypt, including the Kifaya (Enough) Movement and the suspended Labour Party.

"We will organise protests outside Egyptian embassies in Europe and the United States, and will mobilise the public through a satellite television channel," Sabar, an academic who runs a financial advising firm in London, said.

"The regime has left us with no other choice by refusing a peaceful solution.".

Asked if this meant calling for a popular revolt, Sabar said: "Yes. Egypt is not less than a country like Ukraine."

Ukraine's mass protests against election fraud last year propelled a liberal president to power.

Egypt's ruling National Democratic Party said last week it wanted Mubarak, 76, to run for a fifth six-year term in what would be the first multi-candidate elections later this year.

Elections welcomed

Opposition groups in Egypt have welcomed the idea of presidential elections but suspect the ruling party will restrict nominations to ensure victory for its candidate.

The Kifaya Movement, a loose alliance of leftists and liberals, has held a series of rallies in Egypt since last December against a fifth term for Mubarak or a transfer of power to his son Gamal.

It has drawn hundreds of protesters in a country of more than 70 million people.

Husni Mubarak has ruled Egypt
since 1981

Muhammad Farid Hassanain, a member of the Save Egypt Front and former parliamentarian who has nominated himself against Mubarak, said: "We are here to support Kifaya and others. Our role is also to spread awareness among Europeans and make them understand that supporting Third World dictatorships has led to terrorism."

The Save Egypt Front demands Mubarak's impeachment and says an interim presidential council of the country's four top judges should oversee the writing of a new constitution that limits the president's power and gives parliament more authority.

Asked how realistic their goals were, Sabar said: "We do not have another choice and we are confident that even the army will not engage in a confrontation with the people when the day comes."

Under growing pressure, notably from the US, on which it is heavily dependent for both military and civilian aid, the Egyptian government has accepted the need for reform.

Protests dismissed

However, it says emergency laws and limits on public protests are necessary to ensure stability and uphold the rule of law.

The government also dismisses the protesters as a minority.

In its latest move, Egyptian authorities have prevented two leading members of the banned Muslim Brotherhood from travelling, according to Aljazeera's correspondent in Cairo.

Issam al-Aryan and Jamal Hishmat were stopped at Cairo airport on Monday as they were about to travel to Algiers to participate in an Islamic conference.

The Muslim Brotherhood - Egypt's largest opposition group - is officially banned but is allowed to operate in a limited capacity.