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Protesters defy military orders, hold anti-govt rally

Cairo: Defying military orders to “go home”, tens of thousands of protesters today laid a siege to Cairo”s central square clamouring for immediate ouster of embattled President Hosni Mubarak, who ignored mounting global pressure to step down saying it will plunge Egypt into “chaos”.

Amid reports that the US is trying to broker a deal for a transitional government in Egypt headed by Vice President Omar Suleiman, massive crowds thronged the Tahrir Square, the hub of unrelenting 11-day protests that have claimed over 300 lives, for a “day of departure” rally against Mubarak, chanting slogans, bowing in prayer and waving national flags.

Under the close vigil of armed security personnel and ringed by armoured vehicles, some of the protesters carried bread, food, fruits and bottled water for those who stuck out at the Square overnight after days of violent clashes.

The protesters dubbed today”s protest as the “day of departure” for 82-year-old Mubarak, who has ruled the country since 1981, while state TV called it the “day of allegiance” to the President.

Egyptian Defence Minister Hussein Tantawi, who is also Deputy Premier, along with top army officials visited the Square, where soldiers checked IDs and frisked protesters at entrances, to assess the situation, state TV reported.

Protest organisers had set the deadline for the President to quit today, but he refused to bow to the pressure.

In an interview to ABC News, his first since the revolt began last week, Mubarak said he is “fed up” and wants to quit but fears that the nation will “sink in chaos” if he steps down at this stage.

“I am fed up. After 62 years in public service, I have had enough. I want to go,” said Mubarak.

“If I resign today, there will be chaos,” he said when asked about today”s deadline by the protesters for him to quit and leave the country. “I don”t care what people say about me.
Right now I care about my country.”

He said he could have fled the country like other Presidents did but he refused to do so. He said he was present in the presidential palace with his son Gamal.

Mubarak, earlier in a speech in front of Parliament, vowed he will remain President “as long as his heart is beating.”

Meanwhile, The New York Times reported that the Obama administration is in talks with top Egyptian leaders to broker a deal for Mubarak”s exit and establishment of an army-backed transitional government headed by Suleiman.

It quoted US officials as saying that under the proposal, the transitional government would come out with constitutional reforms to prepare the country for a free and fair elections in September.

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