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Middle East
Egypt protests remain strong
Demonstrations enter sixteenth day, following the largest gathering so far in Cairo's Tahrir Square.
Last Modified: 09 Feb 2011 08:29 GMT
Jacky Rowland reports from Tahrir Square on the newcomers swelling the ranks of Egypt's pro-democracy movement

Protests in Egypt have entered their sixteenth day, following probably the biggest number of pro-democracy demonstrators in Cairo's Tahrir [Liberation] Square yet.

The square resembled a tented city on Wednesday, with protesters refusing to budge until their demands for Hosni Mubarak's resignation were met.

The president's message has thus far been that he will not leave until his term expires in September.

Hoda Abdel-Hamid, Al Jazeera's correspondent in the Egyptian capital, said the crowd at Tahrir Square grew rapidly on Tuesday afternoon, with many first-timers joining the demonstrations.

Many feel this showed that the movement, now in its third week, still has momentum.

Protesters are "more emboldened by the day and more determined by the day", Ahmad Salah, an Egyptian activist, told Al Jazeera from Cairo on Wednesday. "This is a growing movement, it's not shrinking."

"People feel very strongly here," Al Jazeera's Stefanie Dekker reported from Cairo. She said people in Tahrir Square were angered by a visit from Tamer Hosni, a famous Arab pop star, on Wednesday morning.

Hosni previously made statements telling the demonstrators to leave the square, saying that Mubarak had offered them concessions. "His comments really did not go down very well," our correspondent said. The crowd reacted angrily and the military had to intervene to keep them away from him.

Another Al Jazeera correspondent, reporting from Cairo, said there was also renewed international element to the demonstrations, with Egyptians from abroad returning to join the pro-democracy camp.

There is even an internet campaign aimed at mobilising thousands of expatriates to return and support the uprising, our sorrespondent said.

Tens of thousands of protesters also came out on the streets in Alexandria, Egypt's second largest city.

Labour movements across the country also planned to stage strikes on Wednesday, calling for
higher wages and better treatment from their employers.

Genuine dialogue

Ban Ki-moon, the UN chief, said on Tuesday that genuine dialogue was needed to end the current crisis, and that a peaceful transition was crucial.

"The Egyptian people are clearly frustrated, and are calling for bold reforms. It is incumbent on the Egyptian leadership - and that of any other country in the world - to listen attentively to the legitimate concerns and aspirations of their people," he said.

US vice president Joe Biden, in a telephone conversation with his Egyptian counterpart Omar Suleiman, on Tuesday called for increased dialogue between opposing sides.

Biden suggested several steps, including an immediate abolition of the country's emergency laws, that give sweeping powers to the security forces. He also suggested halting the arrest of journalists and activists, and involving more opposition members in negotiations.

In Cairo, protesters marched to the parliament buildings on Tuesday, camping out and demanding the assembly's immediate dissolution.

Click here for more on Al Jazeera's special coverage 

The newcomers who joined Cairo's protesters said they had been inspired in part by the release of Wael Ghonim, the Google executive, previously held by state security authorities.

Ghonim was the person behind a page called "We are all Khaled Said" on the social networking site Facebook, which is being credited for helping spark the uprising in Egypt.

"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."

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

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

Protesters' resolve at Tahrir Square was high on Tuesday, and some had reportedly composed a "revolution anthem" to boost morale.

Suleiman's warning

Omar Suleiman, the Egyptian vice-president, warned on Tuesday that his government "can't put up with continued protests" for a long time.

In a sharply worded statement reflecting the regime's impatience and frustration with the mass demonstrations, he said the crisis must be ended as soon as possible.

Suleiman Speech
Announcement's main points
  Mubarak will form a committee to review constitutional amendments.
  Mubarak will form another committee to follow up govt measures to solve the crisis, including talks with opposition.
  Third committee will investigate violent acts and attacks on protesters.
 

Mubarak has promised not to arrest or charge any one of those who took part in the protests.

Suleiman said there will be "no ending of the regime" and no immediate departure for Mubarak, the state news agency MENA reported from a meeting between the vice-president and independent newspapers.

Suleiman reportedly told the editors of the newspapers that the regime wants dialogue and doesn't "want to deal with Egyptian society with police tools."

At one point in the roundtable meeting, Suleiman warned that the alternative to dialogue "is that a coup happens, which would mean uncalculated and hasty steps, including lots of irrationalities. We don't want to reach that point, to protect Egypt."

Pressed by the editors to explain the comment, he said he did not mean a military coup but that "a force that is unprepared for rule" could overturn state institutions, said Amr Khafagi, editor-in-chief of the privately-owned Shorouk daily, who attended the briefing.

Suleiman warned that calls by some protesters for a campaign of civil disobedience are "very dangerous for society and we can't put up with this at all."

This comes after Suleiman announced a slew of constitutional and legislative reforms, to be undertaken by yet to be formed committees.

Earlier on Tuesday, Suleiman said a plan was in place for the peaceful transfer of power.

He said demonstrators will not be prosecuted and an independent fact-finding committee would be established to probe the violence on February 2.

Source:
Al Jazeera and agencies
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