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Egypt falls into stalemate as protests continue

01-31-2011 12:43 BJT

CAIRO, Jan. 30 (Xinhua)-- Sunday marked the sixth day of Egypt's anti-government protests, with helicopters seen hovering above Cairo, army forces deployed to more places and sporadic shots heard, but no clashes were reported by the evening.

Peaceful demonstrations were advocated after dozens of people died in the violence over the past few days, but there was no sign of a quick end to the mass protests now that the protesters and the military seemed to have reached a stalemate.

On Sunday, about 5,000 protestors continued to gather and camp out at the Tahrir Square in downtown Cairo, ignoring an extended curfew from 3 p.m. to 8 a.m., and demanding President Hosni Mubarak to step down.

The army made no attempt to disperse them, who were joined by Nobel Peace laureate and opposition leader Mohamed ElBaradei.

"What we have begun cannot go back," said ElBaradei, head of the National Coalition for Change, which boycotted last year's parliamentary elections. He called on the protesters to be patient and wait for change.

In another effort to appease the protestors, Mubarak on Sunday demanded that the new prime minister push forward reform and anti-corruption efforts and restore confidence in the country's economy.

In his remarks carried by official media, Mubarak said that new Prime Minister Ahmed Shafik's priority is to tame unemployment and create jobs.

He also stressed the importance of taking new, effective and continuous moves to further political reform through dialogue with all parties, including the opposition.

Shafik, former aviation minister, was named the country's new prime minister on Saturday after the previous government headed by Ahmed Nazif was sacked by Mubarak.

The country's intelligence chief Omar Suleiman was sworn in as vice president on the same day.

In his remarks, Mubarak noted that Egyptians had expressed their legitimate demands in the past few days, but also warned that some ill-intended elements were deliberately causing chaos.

In another development, Parliament Speaker Fathi Surour said Sunday evening that results of the parliamentary elections, which were accused to have been rigged, would be revised. The ruling National Democratic Party won a landslide victory in the polls.

The violent Egyptian protests were triggered by high unemployment, poverty, soaring food prices and government corruption.

According to Egypt's official MENA news agency, Mubarak also held a telephone conversation with his American counterpart Barack Obama on Sunday, in which he expressed willingness to undertake more political reforms to meet the Egyptian people's aspirations for a free and democratic society.

In general, less demonstrators took to the streets in Cairo on Sunday, allegedly out of fear of thousands of convicts who escaped from prisons.

According to an army statement released on Sunday, at least 3,113 runaway outlaws and prisoners were captured across the country over the past two days. The army called on citizens to protect themselves from looters who ransacked dozens of shops in Cairo and other places.

Early Sunday morning, the army had to open fire on outlaws in downtown Cairo and other areas to protect people. The military has sent reinforcements to places across the country to enhance security, according to MENA.

Though many doubted it as a tactic used by the authorities to keep the youths from coming out, many Egyptians formed groups to protect their private properties. Many shops and businesses were closed as people rushed to buy all kinds of food and life necessities for fear of a commodity scarcity.

In response to the Egyptian unrest, the United States, Canada, Switzerland, Turkey and the Netherlands issued advisories encouraging their nationals in Egypt to leave. A growing number of countries, including China, Australia, France, Germany, among others, have warned against travel to most, if not all, of Egypt.

Several countries, such as the United States and Canada, have said they would evacuate their stranded citizens in Egypt.

Editor:Du Xiaodan |Source: Xinhua

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