ElBaradei: 'Mubarak must resign to prevent bloodshed'

UN Human Rights chief cites reports of up to 300 killed in protests; 200,000 demonstrators fill Cairo's Tahrir Square for Million Man March.

By ASSOCIATED PRESS
February 1, 2011 14:22
Protesters in Cairo's Tahrir Square

egypt tahrir square 311. (photo credit: Associated Press)

 
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Egyptian reform activist Mohammed ElBaradei called on Tuesday for Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak to resign in order to save lives.

"Mubarak must resign and leave the state in order to prevent bloodshed," ElBaradei said in an interview with Al-Arabiyah.

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Earlier Tuesday, the UN's top human rights official said that she had unconfirmed reports that 300 people have been killed and over 3,000 injured in the anti-government protests in Egypt.

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay said "the whole world is watching how the president and the reconfigured government will react to the continuing protests demanding radical change."

In a statement Tuesday, Pillay quoted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights saying people must be protected from abuses "if man is not to be compelled to have recourse, as a last resort, to rebellion against tyranny and oppression."

Demonstrators prepare for Million Man March



An estimated 200,000 people flooded into the heart of Cairo Tuesday, filling the city's main square as a call for a million protesters was answered by the largest demonstration in a week of unceasing demands for President Hosni Mubarak to leave after nearly 30 years in power.

Rivers of protesters arrived in Tahrir, or Liberation, Square at checkpoints guarded by protesters and the army, which promised Monday night that it would not fire on protesters.

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Egypt

The announcement was a sign that army support for Mubarak may be unraveling as momentum builds for an extraordinary eruption of discontent and demands for democracy in the United States' most important Arab ally.

Mubarak, 82, would be the second Arab leader pushed from office by a popular uprising in the history of the modern Middle East.

The loosely organized and disparate movement to drive him out is fueled by deep frustration with an autocratic regime blamed for ignoring the needs of the poor and allowing corruption and official abuse to run rampant. After years of tight state control, protesters emboldened by the overthrow of Tunisia's president last month took to the streets on Jan. 25 and mounted a relentless and once unimaginable series of protests across this nation of 80 million people — the region's most populous country and the center of Arabic-language film-making, music and literature.

Soviet-era and newer US-made Abrams tanks stood at the roads leading into Tahrir Square, a plaza overlooked by the headquarters of the Arab League, the campus of the American University in Cairo, the famed Egyptian Museum and the Mugammma, an enormous winged building housing dozens of departments of the country's notoriously corrupt and inefficient bureaucracy.

Working-class men in scuffed shoes and worn cloth pants stood alongside women in full-face veils who chanted, "The people want to bring down the regime!"

Egyptian Army "will not use force against the public"

For days, army tanks and troops have surrounded the square, keeping the protests confined but doing nothing to stop people from joining. The guns of many of the tanks pointed out from the square.

Military spokesman Ismail Etman said the military "has not and will not use force against the public" and underlined that "the freedom of peaceful expression is guaranteed for everyone."

He added the caveats that protesters should not commit "any act that destabilizes security of the country" or damage property.

The protests appeared to be better organized on Tuesday. Volunteers wearing tags reading "Security of the People" said they were watching for government infiltrators who might try to instigate violence.

"We will throw out anyone who tries to create trouble," one announced over a loudspeaker.

Authorities shut down all roads and public transportation to Cairo, security officials said. Train services nationwide were suspended for a second day and all bus services between cities were halted.

All roads in and out of the flashpoint cities of Alexandria, Suez, Masnoura and Fayoum were also closed

The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the media.

An unprecedented shutdown of the Internet was in its fifth day after the last of the service providers abruptly stopped shuttling Internet traffic into and out of the country.

Cairo's international airport remained a scene of chaos as thousands of foreigners sought to flee.

Suleiman promises reforms

Hours after the army said it would not use force on the protesters, Vice President Omar Suleiman — appointed by Mubarak only two days earlier in what could be a sucession plan — went on state TV to announce the offer of a dialogue with "political forces" for constitutional and legislative reforms.

Suleiman did not say what the changes would entail or which groups the government would speak with. Opposition forces have long demanded the lifting of restrictions on who is eligible to run for president to allow a real challenge to the ruling party, as well as measures to ensure elections are fair. A presidential election is scheduled for September.

Around 30 representatives from various opposition groups were meeting Tuesday to produce a set of joint demands and decide whether to make ElBaradei spokesman for the protesters, said Abu'l-Ela Madi, a spokesman of one of the participating groups, al-Wasat, a moderate breakaway faction from the Muslim Brotherhood.

The various protesters have little in common beyond the demand that Mubarak go. Perhaps the most significant tensions among them is between young secular activists and the Muslim Brotherhood, which wants to form an Islamist state in the Arab world's largest nation. The more secular are deeply suspicious the Brotherhood aims to co-opt what they contend is a spontaneous, popular movement. American officials have suggested they have similar fears.

In a nod to the suspicions, Brotherhood figures insist they are not seeking a leadership role.

Still, Brotherhood members appeared to be joining the protest in greater numbers and more openly. During the first few days of protests, the crowd in Tahrir Square was composed of mostly young men in jeans and T-shirts.

On Monday, many of the volunteers handing out food and water to protesters were men in long traditional dress with the trademark Brotherhood appearance — a closely cropped haircut and bushy beards.

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