President Hosni Mubarak, clinging on despite mass popular demands for an end to his 30-year rule, met yesterday with the generals who may hold the keys to Egypt’s future; but in Cairo, protesters defied a curfew.
As his key ally the United States called for an “orderly transition,” Mubarak’s disparate opponents, including the banned Muslim Brotherhood, rallied behind diplomat Mohamed ElBaradei to lead possible talks with the army on organizing a handover of power to a national unity coalition.
“The people want the regime to fall!” thousands chanted as troops looked on patiently from their U.S.-built battle tanks.
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told Fox News: “We ... don’t want to see some takeover that would lead not to democracy but to oppression and the end of the aspirations of the Egyptian people.”
For a week, since Egyptians inspired by the overthrow of Tunisia’s aging strongman began a push for change, it has been unclear who might emerge as an alternative to Mubarak — and, more widely, to the military class that has run Egypt since 1952.
As many as 10,000 people protested in Cairo to express anger at poverty repression, unemployment and corruption — themes that are rumbling across the Arab world after Tunisia and now the most populous Arab state Egypt have been plunged in unrest.
Egypt’s armed forces have been at the heart of power since army officers staged the 1952 overthrow of the king. It benefits from about $1.3 billion a year in U.S. military aid.
Opposition leader takes place amid all the chaos
CAIRO – Egyptian opposition leader Mohamed ElBaradei told thousands of protesters yesterday that an uprising against Hosni Mubarak’s rule “cannot go back.”
ElBaradei, a Nobel peace laureate and retired international diplomat, said earlier he had been given a mandate to make contact with the army and build a new government in Egypt.
Some were skeptical of the bespectacled ElBaradei, who has been criticized for spending a lot of time outside the country.
World leaders prepare to remove their citizens
FRANKFURT – Governments started arranging yesterday for planes to bring home citizens stuck in Egypt, where violent protests have given way in some parts to looting.
The United States and Turkey offered to evacuate citizens wanting to leave, and major airlines said they would send additional aircraft to Cairo and Alexandria.
Some European companies started evacuating their staff, and witnesses reported scenes of chaos at Cairo airport as people tried to catch a decreasing number of operational flights.
The U.S. State Department moved to reduce its diplomatic presence in Egypt yesterday, saying it had authorized the voluntary departure of dependents of diplomats and non-essential workers.