Posted: 04 Feb 2011 07:22 PM PST
With the unrest entering its 12th day, protesters camped out in Tahrir Square, the hub of demonstrations in the heart of Cairo, prepared on Saturday to wait him out.
"Mubarak must go, Mubarak must go" and "Hold your ground, God is with us," someone shouted over a loud speaker, after a brief burst of heavy gunfire shortly before 2 am (0000 GMT).
The origin of the gunfire was unclear and there were no reports of casualties. One protester said the army, which is separating pro-democracy supporters and Mubarak loyalists after violent clashes earlier this week, had fired in the air.
Television footage later showed people milling around but there was no sign of violence.
Mubarak said on Thursday Egypt faced chaos if he left now, setting up for what could be a long war of attrition between him and protesters who say they will not give up until he resigns.
But some Egyptians are keen to return to normal after the nationwide unrest which has crippled the economy. Banks were due to reopen on Sunday (tomorrow), the start of the week in the Middle East, and the stock market on Monday.
The United States has also been pressing the 82-year-old Mubarak to begin a transfer of power and pave the way for democracy in a country which has been dominated by the military since it toppled the monarchy in 1952.
But seeking to deflect criticism of interference in Egypt's affairs, Obama said yesterday: "The future of Egypt will be determined by its people."
SEEKING A SOLUTION
Egypt's vice president will meet a group of prominent figures today to examine a proposed solution to the country's crisis in which he would assume the president's powers for an interim period, one of the group said.
Diaa Rashwan told Reuters he and others had been invited to see Vice President Omar Suleiman, an ex-intelligence chief, to discuss an article of the constitution covering Mubarak handing powers to his deputy.
This solution could allow Mubarak to serve out his fifth term as a figurehead and end his tenure with some dignity.
Many protesters however say they want a real transfer of power, rather than to see Mubarak to be replaced by another ruler backed by the military. Obama has also called for "meaningful" change.
Yesterday, people in cities across Egypt — from Suez, Ismailia and Port Said, east of Cairo, to Mansoura, Damanhour and Qalyoubiaas in the Nile Delta in the north, to Aswan in the south — demonstrated in what was billed a "Day of Departure".
Tahrir Square was crammed with people chanting "We're not leaving, You are leaving!", waving Egyptian flags and singing the national anthem, with a beefed-up military presence keeping pro-Mubarak activists out to prevent any bloodshed.
"Game over" said one banner, in English for the benefit of international television channels beaming out live coverage. Effigies of Mubarak hanging by the neck dangled over the square.
The mood was festive as secular, professionals and pious, poorer, members of the mass Islamist movement the Muslim Brotherhood, mingled, sang and chanted in the square.
Turnout nationwide seemed short of the more than one million seen on Tuesday. Mubarak went on television that night to tell Egyptians he would leave office in September.
Despite mass street protests and concessions by government, Mubarak's fate now lies as much in deals struck among generals keen to retain influence and Western officials anxious not to see Egypt slide into chaos or be taken over by Islamists.
Egypt has been a US ally throughout Mubarak's rule and it is strategically vital to American interests because of its peace treaty with Israel, its control of the Suez Canal and its opposition to militant Islam.
The United Nations estimates 300 people have died in the unrest, inspired in part by protests in Tunisia which forced veteran strongman Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali to flee last month and which have since spread to other parts of the Middle East. — Reuters
Posted: 04 Feb 2011 05:18 PM PST
NEW YORK, Feb 5 — Egypt has told the United Nations it is unhappy with Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon's public criticism of the Egyptian government and his calls for change, according to a spokeswoman for Egypt's UN mission.
Ban this week urged Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and his government to take "bold measures" to address the concerns of people demonstrating for change. He urged Mubarak's government to view the demonstrations "as an opportunity to engage in addressing the legitimate concerns of the people."
Egypt's mission to the United Nations in New York expressed its annoyance with Ban, who made public remarks about Egypt while attending the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, as well as during visits to Britain and Germany.
"Egypt has verbally complained about the characterization of the SG (secretary-general) of the situation in Egypt," Nihal Saad, a spokeswoman for the Egyptian mission, said in an e-mail late on Thursday.
"The remarks made by the SG, whether in Davos or London, were viewed as raising the bar above all the other remarks that have been made by other member states, including those who criticised Egypt," she added.
U.N. spokesman Farhan Haq confirmed that U.N. officials had discussed Ban's remarks with the Egyptian mission and added: "We stand by what he has been saying."
Russian Ambassador to the United Nations Vitaly Churkin told reporters he also was "surprised" by Ban's statements.
"The secretariat is to serve the sovereign states and has to work according to a certain mandate, and that mandate does not include giving advice to political leaders," Churkin said.
Churkin indicated that he was not bothered by Ban's comments on the need to refrain from violence or Ban's criticism of the attacks on journalists.
"But there are some extremely delicate domestic political matters, and I think that that should be left for the sovereign states to deal with," Churkin said. — Reuters
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