Egyptians Begin Gathering for Million-Strong March

Published on Tuesday 1st February 2011

Thousands of people gathered in central Cairo Tuesday, where protesters have called for a million-strong march to press their demand that Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak cede power.Military forces remained stationed throughout the capital, but were not interfering with those gathering for the rally.  The military announced earlier it recognizes the "legitimate demands" of the Egyptian people, and pledged not to fire on protesters.A second massive protest is planned Tuesday in the northern port city of Alexandria.National train services were cancelled for a second day, continuing what some consider an attempt by authorities to prevent rural residents from joining the urban protests.An unprecedented Internet cutoff remained in place Tuesday, as Google announced it has created a way for Twitter users to post to the micro-blogging site by dialing a phone number and leaving a voicemail.Egypt's newly appointed vice president said Mr. Mubarak has asked him to begin immediate discussions with all "political forces" on constitutional and legislative reforms. Omar Suleiman, a longtime confidant of Mr. Mubarak, did not say what the changes will entail or which groups the government will contact.The Wall Street Journal  newspaper reported that opposition parties say they will not negotiate as long as Mr. Mubarak remains in office.A crisis committee from Egypt's newly formed opposition coalition met Monday to discuss their strategy in anticipation of Mr. Mubarak's ouster.The gathering issued a call for Tuesday's escalated protests but did not reach a final agreement on a list of demands.On Sunday, Egypt's powerful Muslim Brotherhood and the secular opposition said they had chosen prominent democracy advocate Mohamed ElBaradei to represent their side in possible negotiations with the army over Mr. Mubarak's departure.The military's announcement, delivered on state television without elaboration, did not specify whether it considers legitimate the demands for Mr. Mubarak's removal or merely calls for reform.Egypt's president named a new interior minister and finance minister Monday, in an apparent attempt to quell angry protesters. The foreign minister and long-serving defense minister kept their posts in the Cabinet reshuffle.Retired General Mahmoud Wagdy will replace the widely reviled Habib Adly as the interior minister, overseeing the police and plainclothed domestic security forces. Many Egyptians have been calling for his firing after deadly clashes last week between police and demonstrators.Police were back on the streets Monday, but security sources say they have orders to stick to regular work without confronting demonstrators.More than 125 people have died during protest violence in the past week.Looting that erupted over the past two days eased in Cairo. Egypt's army is continuing its increased presence, with tanks guarding banks and government buildings.The military's central command has been meeting frequently during the past week to review intelligence on the political situation as well as what many see as a growing economic crisis from the continued unrest. Banks and the stock market are scheduled to remain closed for a second day Tuesday.Israel, meanwhile, granted Egypt permission to move two battalions of soldiers into the Sinai Peninsula, which has been largely demilitarized since the two countries signed a peace treaty in 1979. The area is populated by Bedouin tribes that have posed a challenge to Egyptian authorities for years.



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