Egyptian military calls for end to protests

The military`s call came after President Hosni Mubarak said he would step down after Sept polls.

Updated: Feb 02, 2011, 16:43 PM IST

Cairo: The Egyptian military called Wednesday for an end to more than a week of demonstrations against President Hosni Mubarak, throwing its support behind his embattled regime hours after he defiantly rejected demands to step down immediately and said he would serve out his term in office.

The declaration was a clear shift in the stand of the army, which gave a tacit endorsement to the movement on Monday by saying it would not use force against protesters, and that they had legitimate demands.

The emboldened protesters brought more than 250,000 people into Cairo`s main square Tuesday to demand Mubarak leave within days. The president responded before midnight with a statement pledging to serve seven more months in office "die on Egyptian soil."

Representatives of his National Democratic Party immediately began making public statements trying to project the image of the regime as Egypt`s sole path back to stability and security after the disruption of normal life caused by eight days of protests, and a wave of looting and arson that gripped the country over the weekend after the government pulled police from the street.

The army`s message to the demonstrators Wednesday had a conciliatory tone, appealing to young protesters to stand down "out of love for Egypt."

"You have started coming out to express your demands and you are the ones capable of returning normal life to Egypt," military spokesman Ismail Etman said in an address on state television. "Your message has arrived, your demands have become known."

Immediately after his statement, state television ran a scrolling message reading: "The armed forces call on the protesters to go home for the sake of bringing back stability."

Internet service also began returning to Egypt after days of an unprecedented cutoff by the government, and state TV said authorities were easing a nighttime curfew, which now runs from 5 p.m. to 7 a.m. instead of 3 p.m. to 8 a.m.

Several thousand pro-Mubarak demonstrators were rallying in support of him in Cairo.
Ahmed Abdel Hamid, representing The Revolutionary Committee, one of several youth groups that organized the protests, said that the regime was going all out to pressure people to stop protesting.

"Starting with the emotional speech of Mubarak, to the closure of banks, the shortage of food and commodities and deployment of thugs to intimidate people, these are all means to put pressure on the people".

The movement against Mubarak 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 unrest in Tunisia took to the streets on Jan. 25 and mounted a once-unimaginable series of protests across this nation of 80 million.

Mubarak address to the nation around 11 p.m. Tuesday did not calm public fury as clashes erupted in at least one city between his opponents and supporters.

On Wednesday morning in the capital, long lines formed at gas stations and bakeries. Fresh vegetables have all but vanished from Cairo, with farm producers from surrounding areas unable to ferry their goods to the city of 18 million people.

Some cars in Cairo had small papers stuck on their windscreen declaring `Yes to Mubarak."

On the edge of Tahrir Square , protesters from the two camps were engaged in heated arguments over whether continued protests were beneficial after Mubarak promised reforms and declared his intention not to run again.

Bureau Report