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Cairo protesters hold firm.

Summary: Protesters in Tahrir Square continue demands for Mubarak to stand down, as ruling party leadership resigns en masse.

Demonstrators are standing their ground in Cairo a dayafter hundreds of thousands of people gathered to call for Hosni Mubarak, the Egyptian president, to quit.

The protests entered their twelfth day on Saturday, after the city's Tahrir Square, the focal point of protests in Egypt, sawdemonstrators observea "Day of Departure" on Friday.

About5,000 pro-democracy protesters also gathered at the Qa'id Ibrahim mosque incentral Alexandria, Al Jazeera's correspondent there reported.

The leadership of the ruling National Democratic Party (NDP) resigned en masse on Saturday, with Hossam Badrawi appointed as the new secretary-general of the party, state television reported. He replaces Safwat El-Sherif, a Mubarak loyalist, in that post.

Despite the continuingdemonstrations and the resignations, Ahmed Shafiq, the prime minister, said stability was returning to the country and that he was confident a deal could be reached on constitutional reforms.

At anews conference aired on state television, Shafiq suggested that the government was seeking to enter into talks with enough oppositionrepresentatives to isolate street protesters.

Saturday's protests in Cairowere calm, with the exception of a standoff between two groups who were chanting slogans.

One of Al Jazeera's correspondents in Cairo said therewere about 10,000 people in Tahrir Square and queues of people trying to get in. About 500 people joined the protesters from the port city of Suez.

Our correspondent reported that the army was "behaving as if it's back to business as usual tomorrow [Sunday]". He said that the military had removed checkpoints on the 6th of October bridge, allowing traffic to resume normally.

"The army is still securing the square, but their agenda appears to be isolating the protesters - keeping them safe, yes, but also minimising their impact on the surrounding areas," our correspondent said.

General rejected

At one point, General Hassan El-Rawani, the head of the army's central command, entered the square and asked protesters to leave.

They responded with chants of "We are not leaving, he [Mubarak] is leaving!"

Protest organisers have now called for a "Day of the Martyred" to be observed in honour of those who have died in the protests so far, while Copts in Egypt have called for Sunday mass this week to be observed in Tahrir Square.

Security in the square remains tight, with the military engaging in negotiations with protesters to dismantle some of the barricades that they had put up.

"There is very tight security today [Saturday] because there have been all sorts of unconfirmed rumours of bombs being planted in different areas, which has caused a bit of panic," she said.

Another of our correspondentsreported that soldiershad formed a line inside the square, around 100 metres beyond the museum barricade, and are separating the protesters inside the square from those manning the barricade.

"If I had to guess, I'd say the plan is to limit the number of protesters who can get to the museum barricade and then disassemble it, so that the army can regain control of that entrance," he said.

"It looked like there might've been some altercation there; protesters were hopping over the barricades to the outside.

"They've now formed their own human chain, facing outward, along the exterior of the barricade."

Cabinet meeting

Meanwhile, state media reported that Mubarak met ministers responsible for the main economic portfolios in his new government on Saturday.

The meeting included the prime minister, finance minister, oil minister and the trade and industry minister. The central bank governor also attended.

On Friday, Egypt's prosecutor-general had barred Rashid Mohammed Rashid, the former trade and industry minister, from leaving the country, and had frozen his bank accounts.

The same measures was also taken against Habib al-Adly, the former interior minister, and Ahmed Ezz, a businessman.

'Death or freedom'

Friday's"Day of Departure"commenced after afternoon prayers, and saw huge numbers also gather in the cities of Alexandria, Mahalla and Giza.

Hosni Mubarak must go

Dissolve parliament

Lift state of emergency

Transitional unity cabinet

Constitutional amendments

Fair and transparent trials

Protests continued into the night, in defiance of a curfew that has not been observed since it was firstannounced last week.

The newly relaxed curfew now runs from 7pm to 6am local time, according to state television.

One protester in Cairotold Al Jazeera that demonstrationswillcontinue until Mubarak steps down.

"It's either death, or freedom," he said.

Ahmed Shafiq, Egypt's new prime minister, however, said on Friday that Mubarak would not be handing over powers to Omar Suleiman, the vice-president, before the September elections. In statements carried by the official MENA news agency, Shafiq "ruled out" an early exit for Mubarak.

"We need President Mubarak to stay for legislative reasons," he said.

One of our correspondents said some people outside Tahrir Square are beginning to become angry because they are not going to work, they do nothave money andshops are running out of food.

"Who is going to represent [the protesters]? Who is going to lead negotiations with the government? Whoever you speak to has a different idea of what is to come because the demonstrators are a very diverse group," she said.

Speaking on Friday in Washington, Barack Obama, the US president, said it was "clear that there must be a transition process that begins now ... and leads to free and fair elections".

On Saturday, Grand Mufti Sheikh Abdul Aziz bin Abdullah al-Sheikh, Saudi Arabia's top religious authority, warned that anti-regime uprisings are "chaotic acts" aimed at "tearing .. apart" the Muslim world.

Journalists detained

On Saturday, authorities arrested an Al Jazeerajournalist who was returning from leave in Cairo to Doha at Cairo's international airport. He was released later in the day, along with Al Jazeera' bureau chief in Cairo, who was detained on Friday and another journalist who was arrested three days ago.

One other Al Jazeera journalist remained in custody.

Tahrir Square echoes with 'Go Mubarak!' chants

On Friday, Al Jazeera's offices in Cairo were attacked by "gangs of thugs", according to a statement from the network. The office was burned, along with the equipment inside it.

Security forces also earlier broke into the headquarters of the Muslim Brotherhood's website and arrested 12 journalists there, Al Masry Al Youm, the country's largest independent newspaper, and the Associated Press reported on Friday.

An Egyptian journalist wounded in earlier anti-government protests has died of his injuries, his wife told Al Jazeera on Friday.

Ahmed Mohammed Mahmoud, who worked with state-owned daily al-Ahram, was wounded on January 29 during anti-government protests. He is the first journalist known to have died in the unrest.

Amnesty International, the international human rights group, meanwhile, has said that two of its employees have been missing since last Thursday, and that a total of 30 human rights activists have have disappeared in recent days.

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Publication:Aljazeera.net
Geographic Code:7EGYP
Date:Feb 5, 2011
Words:1146
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