Since the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, four transformative events have reshaped the global setting in enduring ways. When the Soviet empire collapsed two years later, the way was opened for the triumphalist pursuit of the American imperial project, seizing the opportunity for geopolitical expansion provided by its self-anointed global leadership – as ‘the sole surviving superpower’.
This first rupture in the nature of world order produced a decade of ascendant neoliberal globalisation, in which state power was temporarily and partially eclipsed by passing the torch of lead global policymaker to the Davos oligarchs, meeting annually under the banner of the World Economic Forum. In that sense, the US government was the well-subsidised sheriff of predatory globalization, while the policy agenda was being set by bankers and global corporate executives. Although not often identified as such, the 1990s gave the first evidence of the rise of non-state actors – and the decline of state-centric geopolitics.
The second rupture came with the 9/11 attacks, however those events are construed. The impact of the attacks transferred the locus of policymaking authority back to the United States, as state actor, under the rubrics of ‘the war on terror’, ‘global security’ and ‘the long war’. This counter-terrorist response to 9/11 produced claims to engage in preemptive warfare – ‘The Bush Doctrine’. This militarist foreign policy was put into practice by initiating a ‘shock and awe’ war against Iraq in March 2003, despite the refusal of the UN Security Council to back American war plans.
This second rupture has turned the entire world into a potential battlefield, with a variety of overt and covert military and paramilitary operations launched by the United States without appropriate authorisation – either from the UN or by deference to international law.
Aside from this disruption of the liberal international order, the continuing pattern of responses to 9/11 involves disregard for the sovereign rights of states in the global south, as well as the complicity of many European and Middle Eastern states in the violation of basic human rights – through engaging in torture, ‘extreme rendition’ of terrorist suspects and the provision of ‘black sites’, where persons deemed hostile to the US were detained and routinely abused.
The response to 9/11 was also seized upon by the neoconservative ideologues that rose to power in the Bush presidency to enact their pre-attack grand strategy, accentuating regime change in the Middle East – starting with Iraq, portrayed as ‘low-hanging fruit’ that would have multiple benefits once picked.
These included military bases, lower energy prices, securing oil supplies, regional hegemony – and promoting Israeli regional goals.
The third rupture involved the continuing global economic recession that began in 2008 – and which has produced widespread rises in unemployment, declining living standards, and rising costs for basic necessities – especially food and fuel. These developments have exhibited the inequity, gross abuses, and the deficiency of neoliberal globalisation – but have not led to the imposition of regulations designed to lessen such widely uneven gains from economic growth – to avoid market abuses, or even to guard against periodic market collapses.
This deepening crisis of world capitalism is not currently being addressed – and alternative visions, even the revival of a Keynesian approach, have little political backing. This crisis has also exposed the vulnerabilities of the European Union to the uneven stresses exerted by varying national domestic capabilities to deal with the challenges posed. All of these economic concerns are complicated – and intensified by the advent of global warming, and its dramatically uneven impacts.
A fourth rupture in global governance is associated with the unresolved turmoil in the Middle East and North Africa. The mass popular uprisings that started in Tunisia have provided the spark that set off fires elsewhere in the region, especially Egypt. These extraordinary challenges to the established order have vividly inscribed into the global political consciousness the courage and determination of ordinary people, particularly the youth, living in these Arab countries, who have endured intolerable conditions of material deprivation, despair, alienation, elite corruption and merciless oppression for their entire lives.
Resisting the status quo
The outcomes of these movements for change in the Arab world is not yet knowable – and will not become clear for months, if not years, to come. It is crucial for supporters on the scene – and around the world – not to become complacent, as it is certain that those with entrenched interests in the old oppressive and exploitative order are seeking to restore former conditions to the greatest extent possible, or at least salvage what they can.
In this regard, it would be a naïve mistake to think that transformative and emancipatory results can come from the elimination of a single hated figure – such as Ben Ali in Tunisia or Mubarak in Egypt – or their immediate entourage. Sustainable, significant change requires a new political structure, as well as a new process that ensures free and fair elections and adequate opportunities for popular participation. Real democracy must be substantive as well as procedural, bringing human security to the people – including tending to basic needs, providing decent work, and a police force that protects rather than harasses. Otherwise, the changes wrought merely defer the revolutionary moment to a later day, and the ordeal of mass suffering will resume.
To simplify, what remains unresolved is the fundamental nature of the outcome of these confrontations between the aroused regional populace and state power, with its autocratic and neoliberal orientations. Will this outcome be transformative, bringing authentic democracy based on human rights and an economic order that puts the needs of people ahead of the ambitions of capital? If it is, then it will be appropriate to speak of ‘The Egyptian Revolution’, ‘The Tunisian Revolution’ – and maybe others in the region and elsewhere to come – as it was appropriate to describe the Iranian outcome in 1979 as the Iranian Revolution.
From this perspective, a revolutionary result may not necessarily lead to a benevolent outcome – beyond ridding the society of the old order. In Iran, a newly oppressive regime resting on a different ideological foundation emerged, itself challenged after the 2009 elections by a popular movement calling itself the Green Revolution. So far this use of the word ‘revolution’ expressed hopes rather than referring to realities on the ground.
What took place in Iran – and what seemed to flow from the onslaught unleashed by the Chinese state in Tiananmen Square in 1989 – was ‘counterrevolution’ – the restoration of the old order and the systematic repression of those identified as participants in the challenge to power. In fact, the words deployed can be misleading. What most followers of the Green Revolution seemed to seek in Iran was reform – not revolution – changes in personnel and policies, protection of human rights – but no challenge to the structure or the constitution of the Islamic Republic.
Reform vs counterrevolution
It is unclear whether this Egyptian movement is at present sufficiently unified – or reflective – to have a coherent vision of its goals beyond getting rid of Mubarak. The response of the state, besides trying to crush the uprising and even banish media coverage, offers at most promises of reform: fairer and freer elections and respect for human rights.
It remains unknown what is meant by – and what will happen during – an ‘orderly transition’ under the auspices of temporary leaders closely tied to the old regime, who likely enjoy enthusiastic backing from Washington. Will a cosmetic agenda of reform hide the reality of the politics of counterrevolution? Or will revolutionary expectations come to the fore from an aroused populace to overwhelm the pacifying efforts of ‘the reformers’? Or, even, might there be a genuine mandate of reform, supported by elites and bureaucrats – enacting sufficiently ambitious changes in the direction of democracy and social justice to satisfy the public?
Of course, there is no assurance – or likelihood – that the outcomes will be the same, or even similar, in the various countries undergoing these dynamics of change. Some will see ‘revolution’ where ‘reform’ has taken place, and few will acknowledge the extent to which ‘counterrevolution’ can lead to the breaking of even modest promises of reform.
At stake, as never since the collapse of the colonial order in the Middle East and North Africa, is the unfolding and shaping of self-determination in the entire Arab world, and possibly beyond.
How these dynamics will affect the broader regional agenda is not apparent at this stage, but there is every reason to suppose that the Israel-Palestine conflict will never be quite the same. It is also uncertain how such important regional actors as Turkey or Iran may – or may not – deploy their influence. And, of course, the behaviour of the elephant not formally in the room is likely to be a crucial element in the mix for some time to come, for better or worse.
Richard Falk is Albert G. Milbank Professor Emeritus of International Law at Princeton University and Visiting Distinguished Professor in Global and International Studies at the University of California, Santa Barbara. He has authored and edited numerous publications spanning a period of five decades, most recently editing the volume International Law and the Third World: Reshaping Justice (Routledge, 2008).
He is currently serving his third year of a six year term as a United Nations Special Rapporteur on Palestinian human rights.
The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera’s editorial policy.
In the two weeks that have passed since Egyptians began street protests aimed at overturning president Hosni Mubarak’s 30-year rule, central Cairo’s Tahrir Square has become the movement’s beating heart and most effective symbol.
As long as protesters occupy the most prominent public space in Cairo – indeed in the whole country – they cannot be ignored by the international media or their own government, despite efforts by the army to contain the demonstrations and return life to normal.
Such an occupation, by hundreds of thousands of people from all walks of life, requires supplies and a degree of organisation.
In the square, both have been achieved on an impressively ad-hoc basis. Leaders have emerged and committees have been formed, but the roughly 55,000 square metre "Republic of Tahrir Square" – as some inside are calling it – still operates on a mostly informal system of economy and defence.
On the perimetre of the square, teams of men – most ranging in age from early 20s to mid-40s – guard barricades made of debris and form checkpoints to ensure identification of guards and give thorough pat-downs to make sure no one brings in weapons.
Some wear laminated badges bearing the Egyptian flag, others identify their job – "Security" – with a piece of tape. Such checkpoints sprang up from the beginning of the occupation and now co-ordinate with army troops who mostly stand on the side and observe proceedings.
Past the checkpoints, a protester sometimes waits to provide visiting journalists with the number of a media co-ordinator or an international organisation to call if they have any complaints about treatment at the hands of the government or government-backed "baltageya" – thugs.
Farther inside, the square’s informal economy becomes immediately apparent.
Next to a man holding a board festooned with anti-Mubarak cartoons – the "Republic of Tahrir Square Information Ministry" – vendors hawk armloads of Egyptian flags (5 pounds/$0.85).
Along the curb nearby, enterprising businessmen have arranged tables and carts to sell pre-made cups of hot tea (1 pound/$0.17) and containers of koshari (3-5 pounds/$0.51-0.85), the ever-present Egyptian lentil and noodle dish.
Some have even begun striding around the square, peeking into tents to offer trays of tea, as they would in one of Cairo’s hole-in-the-wall coffee and shisha shops.
Around the centre of the square – a circular patch of tent-covered ground that once was grass but now is hardened dirt and swampy mud – men park their wagoncarts of packaged sweets (0.5 – 1 pound/$0.08 – $0.17).
Here, we are discouraged from filming by a tired-looking protester whose head is wrapped in a black-and-white checkered keffiyeh.
He apologises profusely but tells us he does not want the rest of the world to think that the square is some kind of festival. Earlier on Monday, we are told, Ahmed Shafiq, the prime minister, compared Tahrir Square to London’s famous and bucolic Hyde Park; this is no Hyde Park, the man says.
He’s right, of course. And that is one of the great dichotomies of the square.
Celebration and funeral
Fiery socialist men in their twenties and conservative older women in hijab crack jokes, gather to sing
patriotic songs, and call ebulliently for the downfall of Mubarak, but all around hang huge banners depicting in gory detail the portraits of the "martyrs," those protesters who have died over the past two weeks.
Tahrir Square is a celebration and a funeral.
The man tells us there is no committee that organises the supply of Tahrir; people simply take initiative. Friends pool money, and those with funds make purchases for the poor.
Impressively, prices do not seem to have inflated inside the square. After we say goodbye to the man in the keffiyeh, we buy a piece of bread (1 pound/$0.17) and a packet of tissues (0.75 pounds/$0.13).
Many of the volunteers in the square simply offer food for free.
As we sit on unfolded newspapers in the centre of the square speaking with Nasser Abdel Hamid, a member of the new youth negotiating committee, we are handed long bread with La vache qui rit cheese and pieces of grainy, "baladi" bread packed with sweet, peanut butter-style spread.
We are approached by a young man who asks if he can interrupt briefly.
Seif, a student at the Bahareyya Academy university, offers to help us find blankets, food and medicine if we plan on spending the night.
He says he is not a member of a committee, just a volunteer. He and his friends pooled $847 to buy medicine for protesters in the square.
Though Seif was beaten during the violence on Wednesday, he has returned, but he says people are having trouble bringing through supplies.
Pro-Mubarak loyalists have been known to intimidate those arriving with supplies and to confiscate them on the roads leading to the square, and the army has occasionally shut down the flow of food and medicine.
But the protesters are firmly entrenched. The scattered tents and blankets that dotted the square a week ago have morphed into a semi-permanent encampment.
Protesters have driven wooden and metal stakes into the ground to anchor huge tarps and makeshift shelters that block out the chilly winter wind and bring to mind the expansive desert abodes of Egypt’s Bedouin population.
They have gutted lampposts and other electrical outlets to charge their mobile phones and power laptops that they use to project movies onto hanging cotton screens or read news on the Internet with still-operational wi-fi connections pirated from nearby buildings.
On a stage overlooking the central part of the square, next to a stuffed effigy lynched from a lamppost, protesters have built a stage complete with a fully functional, concert-level sound system.
On Monday night, a man strummed an acoustic guitar and sang protest songs to a crowd of hundreds.
A protester with an Egyptian flag wrapped around his waist tells us that that the people in the square have formed a new "social contract".
As we walked toward an exit with Abdel Hamid, the youth negotiator, he turned Shafiq’s statement on its head.
"This is better than Hyde Park," he said.
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Thank You Aljazeera English for the Time to Time Reporting (All times are local in Egypt, GMT+2)
3:51pm Al Jazeera issues a statement condemning the “gangs of thugs” that stormed their office in Cairo. The office has been burned along with the equipment inside it.
It appears to be the latest attempt by the Egyptian regime or its supporters to hinder Al Jazeera’s coverage of events in the country…
It appears to be the latest attempt by the Egyptian regime or its supporters to hinder Al Jazeera’s coverage of events in the country.
In the last week its bureau was forcibly closed, all its journalists had press credentials revoked, and nine journalists were detained at various stages. Al Jazeera has also faced unprecedented levels of interference in its broadcast signal as well as persistent and repeated attempts to bring down its websites.
We are grateful for the support we have received from across the world for our coverage in Egypt and can assure everyone that we will continue our work undeterred.
3:45pm International attention remains hooked on the uprisings in Tunisia and now Egypt, but Nic Dawes, Editor of South Africa’s Mail & Guardian says there “has been little focus on the African dimension of these uprisings”.
There are certainly countries – not least among those close to Egypt – that could do with broad-based civil movements against authoritarianism. Chad is perhaps the most benighted, but the depth of its isolation and tyranny are such that it is difficult to imagine a people-power movement succeeding.
What about Ethiopiaand its increasingly authoritarian president, Meles Zenawi? Or Uganda, where Yoweri Museveni is consolidating his grip on power? Or Angola, where oil revenues fatten the ruling elite and human development stalls? Or Zimbabwe? Or any of the pseudo-democracies that dot the continent”
Elsewhere in the Mail & Guardian, online Editor Chris Roper asks if Twitter will save Africa, while blogger Khadija Patel warns that South Africans are failing “to give voice to that facet of the South African experience that strongly resonates with the Egyptians and Tunisians”.
A demonstration was held today at the Egyption embassy in Pretoria. (Source)
3:43pm Al Jazeera reporters say that numbers of Mubarak-loyalists on the 6th of October bridge has increased to over 300 now. An army tank has moved position to confront them.
3:25pm Mondoweiss, a news website focused on American foreign policy in the Middle East, shows this interesting graph comparing Al Jazeera traffic to The New York Times.
3:12pm At least 200 pro-Mubarak loyalists are on the 6th of October bridge just outside Tahrir Square in Cairo.
3:10pm Al Jazeera’s reporter in Alexandria sent through this picture from the protests there. Thousands of men and women are still streaming in to join the already large crowds.
2:35pm Reports coming in that Al Jazeera’s Arabic office in Cairo has been stormed and thrashed by unknown men. More information to follow.
1.45pm: Amr Moussa, the Arab league chief, is attending the rally in Tahrir Square.
1:30pm: About 3,000 people demonstrate in support of President Mubarak in the Mohandiseen district in Giza, adjacent to Cairo.
1:14pm: Our correspondent in Cairo says pro-Mubarak gangs are not visible at all in the streets and that the army has taken extensive measures to secure the demonstration. She says imams, speaking in mosques today, have called for calm and praised the role of the army as it is working to prevent violence.
We are showing live pictures from both Alexandria and Cairo – click here
12:53pm: Prayers are over and the masses, hundred thousands of people, are chanting “We won’t go until he leaves”.
Yesterday, NevineZaki posted this picture on Twitter, saying it shows Christians protecting those praying in Tahrir Square amid violence between protesters and Mubarak supporters. She wrote “Bear in mind that this pic was taken a month after z Alexandria bombing where many Christians died in vain. Yet we all stood by each other”
12:35pm: Our correspondent in Alexandria says tens of thousands of people have gathered in the centre of Alexandria. He says Christians and others not performing Friday prayers have formed a “human chain” around those praying to protect them from any potential disruptions.
12:26pm: Friday prayers at Tahrir Square now. The sermon preceding it called for release of political prisoners and constitutional amendments.
12:22pm: Our correspondent in Cairo says people away from the main protest area are stying inside, fearing violence. She quotes one person as saying “I can’t even trust my neighbour anymore, nowadays you never know who is supporting who.”
12:08pm: Reports say supporters of President Mubarak are still gathering around Tahrir Square.
11:36am: An AFP photographer says Defence Minister Tantawi has addressed the crowd in Tahrir Square, surrounded by soldiers, who called on the protesters to sit down.
“The man [Mubarak] told you he won’t stand again,” Tantawi said, referring to the president’s announcement that he will not seek re-election in polls to be held this autumn. Tantawi also repeated a call from the Egyptian government for the Muslim Brotherhood, the country’s biggest opposition group, to join a dialogue with the government.
11:28am: Protester Aida El-Kashes, on the phone from Tahrir Square, describes the situation there as calm and safe. She says all entrances to the square except the one near the Egyptian museum are open and people are getting in. The thousands of protesters who have been through the past days violence together now have bounds to each other “as a big family”, she says..
11:08am: Our reporter in Tahrir Square says protesters are checking the ID’s of people entering the area to make sure no members of the police or other security services are getting in (Egyptian IDs mention the person’s profession). She says the protesters are very welcoming to journalists.
11:02am: Our correspondent says tens of thousands of people have gathered in Tahrir Square, and many more are expected after Friday prayers.
10:50am: Egypt’s defence minister is visiting Tahrir Square today, a ministry source tells Reuters. “Field Marshal [Mohamed Hussein] Tantawi and leaders of the armed forces are currently in Tahrir Square,” the source is quoted as saying.
10:35am: A number of European leaders are meeting at the EU headquarters in Brussels, discussing the situation in Egypt. Al Jazeera’s Laurence Lee, covering the summit, says what happens in the EU with regards to Egypt mirrors what happened in the United States: “They were quite lukewarm to begin with … but now just like the Obama administration, they are saying that there needs to be immediate transition to democracy in Egypt in a smooth manner.”
10:09am: Our correspondent at Tahrir Square says soldiers are preventing people from getting into Tahrir Square from at least one of the entry points.
10:01am: More from our web producer in Cairo: “About 65 soldiers stationed around 6th of October bridge and the museum, wearing riot gear. Limiting access to Corniche, etc.”
9:55am: The website World Wide Tahrir calls for sit-ins to be held at Egyptian embassies “from Friday 4th Feb at 20:00 local time in your city(!!!), till Mubarak leaves”
9:50am: Our web producer in Cairo writes on Twitter: “Egyptian state TV reporting that one of its crews was attacked in Tahrir Square. Amusing thought, but is it true? Could be propaganda.”
9:45am: The editor-in-chief of Ikhwan online, the official website for the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, says police and “thugs” have attacked Cairo International Media Center.
9:03am: One of our correspondent just wrote on Twitter: “Festive and Celebratory atmosphere that marked the days of the protest b4 Pro-mubarak peeps attacked is back in #tahrir”
And, about 20 minutes ago, another of our reporters wrote: “Dozens of police trucks in side streets around Pres Palace.Yes thats right police!Haven’t seen them in a while.”
8:59am: Mohammed al-Beltagi, a leading member of the Muslim Brotherhood, tells Al Jazeera that his movement has no ambitions to run for the Egyptian presidency.
8:29am: Our correspondent writes on Twitter: “by 7am friday: chants of ‘get out’ ‘invalid’ ‘leave’ resonating louder than ever this time of day”
8:21am: Salma El Tarzi, a protester in Tahrir Square, tells Al Jazeera over the phone that the moral in the square is high and the atmosphere cheerful, “like a festival”, with thousands of people arriving.
8:01am: The curfew has now been lifted and protests are due to start at noon, after Friday prayers.
7:53am: Mona Seif, an Egyptian activist, just posted this picture from Tharir Square this morning.
7:45am: The Guardian has great pictures of protesters putting on makeshift helmets during yesterday’s clashes. Cardboard, buckets and plastic soda bottles were used to deflect the stones.
7:03am: Our producer says there appears to be a security build-up at Tahrir Square, with troops in riot gear standing next to tanks at the outskirts of the square.
6:55am: Watch our video wrapping up yesterday’s events
6:15am: Our reporter in Tahrir Square says there is an “easy calm” in Tahrir Square, as protesters prepare for renewed protests on what they call “the day of departure” for President Mubarak.
6.02am: The New York Times reports that the US administration is in talks with Egyptian officials over a proposal for President Hosni Mubarak to resign immediately, turning over power to a transitional government headed by Vice- President Omar Suleiman. The White House has not confirmed the report.
3:23am Anti-Mubarak protester Nadine Shams tells Al Jazeera that protesters are trying to gear up for Friday’s protests while securing Tahrir Square and keeping themselves safe. She tells us that protesters fear being attacked by armed men again.
2:49am Here’s another video from Egypt’s “Day of Rage” on January 28 shows a vehicle ploughing over protesters. The person who posted the cilp claims it is a diplomatic vehicle that “ran over more than 20 people” but we can’t verify these details at this time.
2:14am One of our Web producers notes that loudspeakers inside Tahrir Square are playing loud, old-school patriotic Egyptian songs. People are clapping along.
2:08am Anti-Mubarak activist Mona Souief tells Al Jazeera that people feel that they are “past the worst.” and that if protesters could make it past the violence of the past 24 hours, than they could persevere.
2:01am Egyptian state television claims that some anti-Mubarak protesters are asking to be able to pass the barricades and leave Tahrir Square, and that that the Egyptian army has indicated that it’s ready to help protesters leave the square.
But Al Jazeera Arabic contacted some protesters, who have have denied the reports carried on Egyptian television.
1:26am Aida Seif El Dowla, founder of the El Nadim Center tells Al Jazeera how a sister organisation, the Hisham Mubarak Law Center, a prominent legal aid group providing help to anti-government protesters , was raided on Thursday, with its staff of five, along with 25 volunteers, being detained.
Since early in the morning, the area … was full of thugs, who randomly rounded up people from the streets and them people in microbuses and just took them away, God knows where. And then we heard that the army had surrounded the Hisham Mubarak Law Centre, and then we heard that thugs were surrounding the Hisham Mubarak Law Centre, and they’re not allowing people to enter or to leave the building. And then we heard that the army – the military police – they went up into the centre, broke into it, took the equpment, took the computers, took some of the files, removed some of the sim cards from the mobile phones …
When asked if she knew where her colleagues were being kept, al Dowla said,
We don’t know. We don’t know. The fact that they have been taken by the military police means that probably being kept in some military place, not the normal police stations, depending on where they have been detained from, and so we have no access to those people, we have no knowledge of whether or not they are safe. … we have absolutely no idea where they are.
She said among those detained are representatives of Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, along with several bloggers.
1:02am AJE correspondent reports that live shots will resume as soon as it is safe to do so, as journalists with cameras are being targeted.
12:20am Charter evacuation flights are landing all around the world as foreigners, fearing for their safety, leave Egypt.
12:16am Our live blog on the Battle for Egypt begins now and will continue for the rest of the day.
Chants urging President Hosni Mubarak to leave are reverberating across Cairo’s Tahrir Square, the focal point of protests in Egypt, where hundreds of thousands have gathered for what they have termed the "Day of Departure".
As the country entered its eleventh day of unrest, mass demonstrations commenced after Friday prayers.
Thousands also gathered in the city of Alexandria, holding up placards and chanting "He must go!" an Al Jazeera correspondent there reported. Protesters there have said they will march to the city’s main train station and stage a sit-in until Mubarak leaves office. Three thousand people also joined demonstrations in Giza.
In Cairo, about 200 Mubarak loyalists had gathered on the 6th of October Bridge, near Tahrir Square, with another 200 below the bridge. They were chanting pro-regime slogans, and holding up posters of Mubarak.
Our correspondents at the square reported that there were up to five layers of checkpoints at some entrances, with makeshift barricades being put up by pro-democracy protesters at some points, possibly in anticipation of violence if Mubarak loyalists were to approach the square.
"The feel here is that today is the final day for Mubarak, it’s time for him to go," Gigi Ibrahim, a political activist told Al Jazeera from Tahrir [Liberation] Square in Cairo.
"This whole process has been about who is more determined and who is not willing to give up. And everyday [the protesters] get more and more determined," Ibrahim said.
Mohamed Hussein Tantawi, Egypt’s defence minister, also visited the square earlier on Friday. He talked with the protesters and other military commanders.
Amr Moussa, Egypt’s former foreign minister and current secretary-general of the Arab League, also visited the square.
Earlier, Ahmed Shafiq, Egypt’s new prime minister, said the interior minister should not obstruct Friday’s peaceful marches. And Mubarak, on his part said he wanted to leave office, but feared there will be chaos if he did.
Speaking to America’s ABC television he said, "I am fed up. After 62 years in public service, I have had enough. I want to go."
But he added: "If I resign today, there will be chaos."
Mubarak’s government has struggled to regain control of a nation angry about poverty, recession and political repression, inviting the Muslim Brotherhood – Egypt’s most organised opposition movement – to talks and apologising for Wednesday’s bloodshed in Cairo.
In a bid to calm the situation, Omar Suleiman, the vice-president, said on Thursday that the banned Muslim Brotherhood, Egypt’s largest opposition political movement, and others had been invited to meet the new government as part of a national dialogue.
An offer to talk to the banned but tolerated group would have been unthinkable before protests erupted on January 25, indicating the gains made by the pro-democracy movement since then.
But sensing victory, they have refused talks until Mubarak goes.
Opposition actors including Mohamed ElBaradei, the former UN nuclear watchdog head, and the Muslim Brotherhood said again that Mubarak, who wants to stay on until elections scheduled for September, must go before they would negotiate with the government.
"We demand that this regime is overthrown, and we demand the formation of a national unity government for all the factions," the Muslim Brotherhood said in a statement broadcast by Al Jazeera.
The government’s overture came after Shafiq, the prime minister, apologised for Wednesday’s violence and the breakdown in law and order.
Shafiq also said he did not know who was responsible for the bloodshed, blamed by protesters on undercover police.
In an important move, Mohammed Al-Beltagi, a leading member of Muslim Brotherhood, told Al Jazeera on Friday that his organisation has no ambitions to run for the presidency.
The developments come as the New York Times reports, quoting US officials and Arab diplomats, that the US administration is discussing with Egyptian officials a proposal for Mubarak to resign immediately and hand over power to a transitional government headed by Omar Suleiman, the newly appointed vice-president.
This report, though unconfirmed by the White House, comes after Mubarak’s statements on Tuesday this week, where he agreed to give up power in September at the end of his current term.
Mohamed Talaat El-Sadat, brother of the late Egyptian president Anwar El-Sadaat has backed Suleiman for the top post. He told Al Jazeera on Friday that he supported the youth revolution but did not want Egypt to go to civil war.
"We don’t want chaos and call for meeting [the] demands of demonstrators who should stay at Tahrir Square," he said, adding "I expect Mubarak will voluntarily and openhandedly step down and transfer power to Omar Suleiman."
At least 13 people have died and scores were injured, most over the last two days when Mubarak loyalists launched a counter-revolution on pro-democracy protesters.
The army took little action while the fighting raged in Tahrir Square over the past two days. However, there was a more visible military presence on Thursday; but this did not prevent new clashes.
The interior ministry has denied it ordered its agents or officers to attack prior pro-democracy demonstrations.
Vice president Suleiman told ABC Television that the government would not forcefully remove protesters. "We will ask them to go home, but we will not push them to go home," he said.
Ahead of Friday’s mass protests, eyewitnesses told Al Jazeera that thugs, with the assistance of security vehicles, were readying to attack Tahrir Square. They said protesters were preparing to confront them.
Protesters also reported finding petrol bombs on security personnel dressed in civilian clothes.
An Al Jazeera correspondent, who spent Thursday night in Tahrir Square, said "the numbers did not die down one bit" through the night. He added that there was an atmosphere of defiance among all the protesters he had spoken to.
The army’s role in shaping events is crucial. Only on Thursday did soldiers set up a clear buffer zone around the square to separate factions after having stood by. That did not prevent new clashes as opposing groups pelted each other with rocks.
Though less numerous than earlier in the week, there were demonstrations on Thursday in Suez and Ismailia, industrial cities where inflation and unemployment have kindled the sort of dissent that hit Tunisia and which some believe could ripple in a domino effect across other Arab police states.
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CAIRO, EGYPT – Hosni Mubarak, the Egyptian president, has announced in a televised address that he will not run for re-election but refused to step down from office – the central demand of millions of protesters who have demonstrated across Egypt over the past week.
His announcement follows a week of protests, in which millions of people have taken to the streets in Cairo and elsewhere.
Mubarak seemed largely unfazed by the protests during his recorded address, which aired at 11pm local time on Tuesday.
Shortly after his speech, clashes broke out between pro-Mubarak and anti-government protesters in the Mediterranean city of Alexandria, Al Jazeera’s correspondent reported.
Rock-throwing youths at the city’s Mahatit Masr Square scattered as automatic gunfire rang out and a tank advanced towards them before halting and then withdrawing. There was no sign of any casualties.
Mubarak’s words were unlikely to carry much weight with the protesters at Cairo’s Tahrir, or Liberation, Square: they resumed their "Leave, Mubarak!" chant shortly after his speech, and added a few new slogans, like "we won’t leave tomorrow, we won’t leave Thursday …"
Mubarak mentioned the protests at the beginning of his speech, and said that "the young people" have the right to peaceful demonstrations.
But his tone quickly turned accusatory, saying the protesters had been "taken advantage of" by people trying to "undermine the government".
Until now officials had indicated Mubarak, 82, was likely to run for a sixth six-year term of office. But in his address on Tuesday, Mubarak said he never intended to run for re-election.
"I will use the remaining months of my term in office to fill the people’s demands," he said.
That would leave Mubarak in charge of overseeing a transitional government until the next presidential election, currently scheduled for September.
Economy and jobs
Mubarak promised reforms to the constitution, particularly Article 76, which makes it virtually impossible for independent candidates to run for office. And he said his government would focus on improving the economy and providing jobs.
"My new government will be responsive to the needs of young people," he said. "It will fulfil those legitimate demands and help the return of stability and security."
Mubarak also made a point of saying that he would "die in this land" – a message to protesters that he did not plan to flee into exile like recently deposed Tunisian president, Zine El Abidine Ben Ali.
Marwan Bishara, Al Jazeera’s senior political analyst, said: "It is clear that President Mubarak is in denial over his legacy.
"Until Friday we are probably going to watch a major escalation of tension in events both between the demonstrators on the one hand and the regime of Mubarak on the other."
Mohamed ElBaradei, the Egyptian opposition figure who returned to Cairo to take part in the protests, said Mubarak’s pledge not to stand again for the presidency was an act of deception.
ElBaradei, a Nobel peace prize winner as head of the UN nuclear agency, said if Mubarak did not heed the call to leave power at once, he would be "not only a lame-duck president but a dead man walking".
"He’s unfortunately going to extend the agony here for another six, seven months. He continues to polarise the country. He continues to get people even more angry and could [resort] to violence," ElBaradei said.
Indeed, none of the protesters interviewed by Al Jazeera earlier today said they would accept Mubarak finishing his term in office.
"He needs to leave now," Hassan Moussa said in Tahrir Square just hours before Mubarak’s announcement.
"We won’t accept him leaving in September, or handing power to [newly
installed vice-president] Omar Suleiman. He needs to leave now."
The protests continue to feel like a waiting game – as if Mubarak is hoping to simply outlast the crowds amassed at Tahrir Square.
"When the people of a nation decide something, then it will happen," Abdullah Said Ahmed, a student from Al-Azhar University, said. "The United States chooses its leaders. We’re going to choose ours. Our patience can do anything."
Saber Shanan said: "I’ll stay here until I die or until the system changes."
Mubarak’s announcement came after pressure from the US administration, which urged him not to seek re-election.
Frank Wisner, a former ambassador to Egypt, met Mubarak on Monday and reportedly told him not to extend his time in office.
In remarks to the media at the White House on Tuesday evening, Barack Obama, the US president, said he had spoken with Mubarak who he said "recognises that the status quo is not sustainable and a change must take place".
Obama said he told Mubarak that an orderly transition must be meaningful and peaceful, must begin now and must include opposition parties.
Obama emphasised, however, that "it is not the role of any other country to determine Egypt’s leaders".
Speaking to Al Jazeera, Mona Eltahawy, a US-based Human Rights activist and Newspaper columnist said that, "The Obama administration has been completely outpaced by what is happening in Egypt. They just do not understand the amount of rage and hatred for Mubarak in Egypt.
"Because for so long, they have sided with this dictator against his own people."
"This is the defining moment now, and we need to hear from the US administration, ‘Mubarik must go’. Anything short of that will reflect that they, like Muabarak, are completely out of touch with what is happening," she added.
"The courageous Egyptian revolution is telling the world essentially, that it is time to side with the people," Eltahawy said.
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Latest reaction to clashes erupting in the Egyptian capital Cairo between supporters and opponents of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak.
|Mohamed ElBaradei, Egyptian opposition figure|
I’m extremely concerned, I mean this is yet another symptom, or another indication, of a criminal regime using criminal acts. My fear is that it will turn into a bloodbath.
It seems to me that this is a regime that does not want to listen to the people, does not want to understand that they need to go, and in fact it strengthens the resolve of every Egyptian that Mr Mubarak has to go, has to go immediately before the country goes down the drain.
Now they want to get rid of millions of people who are demonstrating, and will continue to demonstrate, by scare tactics.
Even if I take him on his word, why do I have to keep a representative of a regime which I believe is turning into a regime of thugs? Why do Egyptians have to keep him for seven months of instability, of insecurity, of intimidation?
|Ban Ki-moon, White House secretary-general|
I am deeply concerned by the continuing violence in Egypt. I once again urge restraint to all the sides. Any attack against peaceful demonstrators is unacceptable and I strongly condemn it.
We should not underestimate the danger of instability across the Middle East.
|David Cameron, UK prime minister|
The attacks on Egyptian protesters are unnacceptable. If it turns out that the regime in any way has been sponsoring or tolerating this violence, that would be completely and utterly unnacceptable.
These are despicable scenes that we’re seeing.
|PJ Crowley, US state department spokesman|
We are concerned about detentions and attacks on news media in Egypt. The civil society that Egypt wants to build includes a free press.
|Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui,
Amnesty International’s Middle East North Africa Programme Deputy Director
There seems to be an indication that the violence has been orchestrated by the authorities to stop the protests. The security forces that are normally in charge of policing and protecting demonstrators has not intervened to separate the two groups.
Witnesses in Mahala and Cairo have reported seeing lorries carrying pro-government supporters.
This wouldn’t be the first time the Egyptian authorities used this kind of tactic to quell demonstrations, however, if this is the case that would be a very cynical and bloody way to quell the demonstrations.
|Robert Gibbs, US press secretary|
The United States deplores and condemns the violence that is taking place in Egypt, and we are deeply concerned about attacks on the media and peaceful demonstrators. We repeat our strong call for restraint.
Thank You http://english.aljazeera.net for providing the precious information
Clashes have broken out between pro- and anti-government demonstrators in the Egyptian capital Cairo.
Protesters from both sides threw stones at each other in Tahrir Square, the epicentre of ongoing opposition demonstrations against President Hosni Mubarak for the past nine days.
Al Jazeera correspondents, reporting from the scene, said that more than 500 people had been injured in Wednesday’s clashes that are still continuing.
Earlier, witnesses said the military allowed thousands of pro-Mubarak supporters, armed with sticks and knives, to enter the square. Opposition groups said Mubarak had sent in thugs to suppress anti-government protests.
One of our correspondents said the army seemed to be standing by and facilitating the clashes. Latest reports suggest that the centre of the square is still in control of the protesters, despite the pro-Mubarak supporters gaining ground.
Witnesses also said that pro-Mubarak supporters were dragging away protesters they had managed to grab and handing them over to security forces.
Salma Eltarzi, an anti-government protester, told Al Jazeera there were hundreds of wounded people.
"There are no ambulances in sight, and all we are using is Dettol," she said. "We are all so scared."
Aisha Hussein, a nurse, said dozens of people were being treated at a makeshift clinic in a mosque near the square.
She described a scene of "absolute mayhem", as protesters first began to flood into the clinic.
"People are coming in with multiple wounds. All kinds of contusions. We had one guy who needed stitches in two places on his face. Some have broken bones."
Meanwhile, another Al Jazeera correspondent said men on horseback and camels had ploughed into the crowds, as army personnel stood by.
At least six riders were dragged from their beasts, beaten with sticks by the protesters and taken away with blood streaming down their faces.
One of them was dragged away unconscious, with large blood stains on the ground at the site of the clash.
The worst of the fighting was just outside the world famous Egyptian Museum, which was targeted by looters last week.
Al Jazeera’s correspondent added that several a group of pro-government protesters took over army vehicles. They also took control of a nearby building and used the rooftop to throw concrete blocks, stones, and other objects.
Soldiers surrounding the square took cover from flying stones, and the windows of at least one army truck were broken. Some troops stood on tanks and appealed for calm but did not otherwise intervene.
Many of the pro-Mubarak supporters raised slogans like "Thirty Years of Stability, Nine Days of Anarchy".
Al Jazeera’s online producer in Cairo said rocks were continously being thrown from both sides. He said that though the army had put up barricades around the square, they let the pro-Mubarak supporters through.
"The people on horses are pro-Mubarak supporters, they are a very angry crowd looking for anyone working for Al Jazeera and for Americans. They are trying to get on the other side of the army tanks to get to the anti-Mubarak supporters. More and more pro-Mubarak supporters are coming in."
Al Jazeera’s Jane Dutton, also in Cairo, said that security guards have also been seen amongst the pro-Mubarak supporters, and it may be a precursor to the feared riot police arriving on the scene.
Dutton added that a journalist with the Al-Arabiya channel was stabbed during the clashes.
Fighting took place around army tanks deployed around the square, with stones bouncing off the armoured vehicles.
Several groups were involved in fist fights, and some were using clubs. The opposition also said many among the pro-Mubarak crowd were policemen in plain clothes.
"Members of security forces dressed in plain clothes and a number of thugs have stormed Tahrir Square," three opposition groups said in a statement.
Mohamed ElBaradei, a prominent opposition figure, accused Mubarak of resorting to scare tactics. Opposition groups have reportedly also seized police identification cards amongst the pro-Mubarak demonstrators.
"I’m extremely concerned, I mean this is yet another symptom, or another indication, of a criminal regime using criminal acts," ElBaradei said.
"My fear is that it will turn into a bloodbath," he added, calling the pro-Mubarak supporters a "bunch of thugs".
But according to state television, the minister of interior denied that plain clothes police had joined pro-Mubarak demonstrations.
Elbaradei has also urged the army to intervene.
"I ask the army to intervene to protect Egyptian lives," he told Al Jazeera, adding he said it should intervene "today" and not remain neutral.
Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, deputy director for Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa Programme, told Al Jazeera that the clashes look to be orchestrated.
"It is not the first time the Mubarak government has provoked clashes to quell protests, but if it truly is orchestrated, this is a cynical and bloody approach," she said.
"The army look to be not intervening at all, and the question remains as to whether they have been ordered not to step in."
The army has told state television that citizens should arrest those who have stolen military clothing, and to hand them over.
Despite the clashes, anti-government protesters seeking Mubarak’s immediate resignation said they would not give up until Mubarak steps down.
Khalil, in his 60s and holding a stick, blamed Mubarak supporters and undercover security for the clashes.
"But we will not leave," he told Reuters. "Everybody stay put."
Mohammed el-Belgaty, a member of the Muslim Brotherhood, told Al Jazeera the "peaceful demonstrations in Tahrir Square have been turned into chaos".
"The speech delivered by President Mubarak was very provocative as he used very sentimental words.
"Since morning, hundreds of these paid thugs started to demonstrate pretending to be supporting the President. Now they came to charge inside Tahrir Square armed with batons, sticks and some knives.
"Mubarak is asking the people to choose between him or chaos."
Ahead of Wednesday’s clashes, supporters of the president staged a number of rallies around Cairo, saying Mubarak represented stability amid growing insecurity, and calling those who want his departure "traitors."
"Yes to Mubarak, to protect stability," read one banner in a crowd of 500 gathered near state television headquarters, about 1km from Tahrir Square.
A witness said organisers were paying people $17, to take part in the pro-Mubarak rally, a claim that could not be confirmed.
Other pro-Mubarak demonstrations occurred in the Mohandeseen district, as well as near Ramses Square.
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