Million people to march in Cairo, army will not use force (Lead)

February 1st, 2011 - 1:26 pm ICT by IANS  

Cairo, Feb 1 (IANS) Preparations began Tuesday for the million people march in the Egyptian capital to oust President Hosni Mubarak as the army said that they will not “use force against the Egyptian people”. Another million-strong march is being planned at the Mediterranean port city of Alexandria.The fierce protests against Mubarak entered the eighth day Tuesday, with defiant demonstrators determined to end the octogenarian’s 30-year rule.

The protests received a shot in the arm when the army said “freedom of expression” was guaranteed to all citizens using peaceful means.

“To the great people of Egypt, your armed forces, acknowledging the legitimate rights of the people” stress that “they have not and will not use force against the Egyptian people,” said an army statement, reported Al Jazeera.

The statement came just a day before the march of the million people was to take place.

The media report said that another million-strong march was planned in Alexandria, as national train services were cancelled.

In a desperate attempt to tackle the situation, the Egyptian president has asked the newly appointed vice president to hold talks with the opposition.

Vice President Omar Suleiman said Monday that President Mubarak had appointed him to hold immediate dialogue with the opposition, Xinhua reported.

According to Suleiman, the president highlighted the importance of executing court’s orders to correct the last year’s parliamentary elections results.

Suleiman said there would even be a review of some disputed seats in parliament, from last November’s election. The ruling National Democratic Party (NDP) swept the election, amid accusations of widespread fraud.

Suleiman, a former intelligence chief, was appointed as Egypt’s vice president Friday in response to the massive protests that broke out in various cities last week.

However, protesters refused to accept Mubarak’s new cabinet and decided to scale up their uprising.

At least 150 people have died so far in violence linked to the unrest.

DPA reported that tens of thousands of protesters gathered in Tahrir Square until the early hours of Tuesday said they would not relent until President Mubarak stepped down and the country was put on the path towards serious economic and democratic reforms.

Officials and media reports said the government was planning to shut down the country’s mobile networks ahead of Tuesday’s “march of a million”. It would be the second time since Friday that Egypt’s government would have taken such a move.

Internet has been down across the country since late Thursday. Internet monitor Renesys said another Egyptian internet service provider, Noor Group, appeared to have been taken down.

In response, Google said it would offer demonstrators a means of sending tweets to Twitter by calling a telephone number, where their words would be automatically converted into text.

In Tahrir Square, the vice president’s statement was seen as a concession to the opposition, after they earlier derided the new cabinet as one mostly filled with loyalists and former ministers.

“We will spend as many nights here as it takes to get the snake out,” chanted the demonstrators in Tahrir Square, referring to Mubarak.

The European Union issued a statement, supporting “free and fair elections” in Egypt, following a similar message the day before from Cairo’s main ally, the US - upping the international pressure on the embattled Mubarak, DPA reported.

Unrest was also widespread in other remote regions across the vast and mostly poor country of 80 million people, almost half below the age of 35. The protests are the largest in a generation.

Egypt’s economy was suffering with its bonds being downgraded. The country’s stock market and banks were also to remain closed.

The port in Alexandria was also closed, according to traders. But the Suez Canal, vital for international trade, remained functional.

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