|Tensions are escalating on the streets of Egypt as pro-and anti-government demonstrators clash [AFP]
Ahmad Shafiq, the Egyptian prime minister, has apologised for the violence in the capital's Tahrir Square, and vowed that it will not be allowed to recur.
He made the comments on Thursday, after violent clashes in central Cairo between pro-democracy protesters and loyalists of Hosni Mubarak, the president, claimed at least seven lives and injured more than 800.
He added that an investigation will be launched into the violence.
Shafiq told reporters in a news conference that calls for Mubarak to step down are "unacceptable".
He did, however, say that dialogue with all opposition groups will begin.
Asked if this includes the Muslim Brotherhood, banned from political activities in Egypt, Shafiq said: "No one will be excluded from the dialogue."
Egypt's cabinet meanwhile, has denied that it had a role in mobilising supporters of Mubarak against pro-democracy protesters in Tahrir Square.
"To accuse the government of mobilising this is a real fiction. That would defeat our object of restoring the calm," Magdy Rady, a cabinet spokesman told Reuters news agency.
"We were surprised with all these actions. The government will take the measures it can to identify who was behind this and try to deal with this."
Rady also said that the army, sent to the streets after police lost control of protests, had not intervened because it could have been interpreted as taking sides.
"There is faction here and faction there, they [the army] cannot take a side. If they interfere in one side that will defeat their purpose. It would complicate matters more than helping it," Rady said.
Egypt has been in turmoil since last week with pro-democracy activists pressing on Mubarak to immediately step down.