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Middle East
Protests swell at Tahrir Square
Tens of thousands pour into central Cairo seeking President Mubarak's ouster, despite slew of government concessions.
Last Modified: 08 Feb 2011 14:55 GMT
Renewed optimism has resulted in another so-called "million man march" in Tahrir Square [AFP]


Thousands of pro-democracy demonstrators have poured into Cairo's Tahrir Square as protests against Hosni Mubarak, the Egyptian president, entered the fifteenth day despite a slew of concessions announced by the government.

According to Hoda Abdel-Hamid, Al Jazeera's correspondent in the Egyptian capital, the crowd at the square grew rapidly on Tuesday afternoon, with many first-timers joining protesters seeking Mubarak's immediate ouster.

The newcomers said they had been inspired in part by the release of Google executive Wael Ghonim after what he said was two weeks of detention by state security authorities.

Click here for more on Al Jazeera's special coverage 

"I came here for the first time today because this cabinet is a failure, Mubarak is still meeting the same ugly faces ...he can't believe it is over. He is a very stubborn man," Afaf Naged, a former member of the board of directors of the state-owned National Bank of Egypt, said.

"I am also here because of Wael Ghonim. He was right when he said the NDP [ruling National Democratic Party] is finished. There is no party left, but they don't want to admit it," she said.

Amr Fatouh,  a surgeon, said said he too had joined the protests for the first time.

"I hope people will continue and more people will come. At first, people didn't believe the regime would fall but that is changing," he said.

Another Al Jazeera journalist, reporting from the square, said the protesters' resolve seemed very high. Many said they would not leave until their demands are met. 

Meanwhile, about 20 lawyers have petitioned the country's prosecutor general Abdel Meguid Mahmoud to try Mubarak and his family for allegedly stealing state wealth.

Political challenge

But Mubarak's message has thus far been that he will not leave until his current term expires in September.

Omar Suleiman, the country's newly appointed vice-president, announced on Tuesday that Mubarak would set up a committee that would carry out constitutional and legislative amendments to enable a shift of power.

Suleiman also said that Mubarak will set up a separate committee to monitor the implementation of all proposed reforms. The two committees will start working immediately, he said.

The government had offered on Monday a pay rise to public-sector workers, but the pro-democracy camp said the government had conceded little ground in trying to end the current crisis.

"[The pay rise] doesn't mean anything," Sherif Zein, a protester at Tahrir Square told Al Jazeera on Tuesday. "Maybe it will be a short-term release for the workers ... but most of the people will realise what this is, it's just a tablet of asprin, but it's nothing meaningful."

Beyond Tahrir Square, life has been slowly getting back to normal in other parts of Cairo. Some shops and banks were open, and our correspondent said on Monday that traffic on the streets was increasing.

However,  the country's tourism sector is still suffering, with the area around the pyramids remaining closed.

"There's a lot of popular public sentiments in Cairo and wider Egypt regarding what those protesters are trying to achieve but at the same time, people are trying to get back to live as normal lives as possible," our correspondent said.

Another correspondent, also in Cairo, said: "There are divisions. On one side, people do agree with the messages coming out of Tahrir Square, but on the other, Egypt is a country where about 40 per cent of the population lives on daily wages."

Al Jazeera's Andrew Simmons, reporting from Cairo, said that a so-called battle for hearts and minds is going on.

"Anti-government demonstrators are pushing to convince the country that Mubarak needs to go, but some also don't want the country to plunge into chaos," he said.

"There is also a struggle to get back to normality. Many want to get back to normal lives, but at the same time want this campaign to continue."

Tanks continue to guard government buildings, embassies and other important institutions in the capital.

Source:
Al Jazeera and agencies
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