Army guards anti-Mubarak protesters

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Egyptian soldiers search anti-government protesters in Cairo's Tahrir Square (AP)

The Egyptian military has guarded thousands of protesters pouring into Cairo’s main square on Friday in an attempt to drive out President Hosni Mubarak.

US President Barack Obama’s administration said it was in talks with top Egyptian officials about the possibility of Mr Mubarak immediately resigning and an interim government forming before free and fair elections this year.

Egyptian defence minister Hussein Tantawi and senior army officials visited the square on Friday morning and soldiers were checking IDs and performing body searches at its entrances, in an indication that Egypt’s most powerful institution was sanctioning the demonstration.

The atmosphere was calm after two days of clashes between pro and anti-Mubarak crowds battling with stones and makeshift shields.

The protester have vowed to intensify efforts to force the president out on Friday.

The Facebook page that started the protest movement said supporters should gather at noon on all Egyptian squares “so that we can put the last nail in the regime’s coffin, and declare the victory of the January 25 revolution”.

Gangs backing Mr Mubarak attacked journalists and human rights activists across Cairo on Thursday, while others were detained by soldiers.

US officials said the creation of a military-backed caretaker government was one of several ideas being discussed between the Egyptian regime and the Obama administration.

Among the options was a proposal for Mr Mubarak to resign immediately and cede power to a transitional government run by Vice President Omar Suleiman, the officials said.

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