Around 180 British tourists are flying home from Egypt on a plane chartered by the Foreign Office to help UK nationals flee the capital Cairo, amid escalating violence between opponents and supporters of President Hosni Mubarak.
Prime Minister David Cameron joined other European leaders to step up pressure on Mubarak to give up the reins of power after 30 years.
But foreign interference in Egyptian affairs was rejected by Vice President Omar Suleiman, who said: “Intervention in our internal affairs is strange, unacceptable and we will not allow it.”
In a lengthy interview on state television, Mr Suleiman said the authorities were ready to talk with anti-government protesters, including activists of the proscribed Muslim Brotherhood, and accepted some of those involved in the demonstrations of the past week had voiced “legitimate, acceptable demands”.
But he also claimed there had been a conspiracy to destabilise Egypt and said those responsible for violence in Tahrir Square, the focal point of demonstrations, would be punished.
At least eight people have been killed and hundreds injured in clashes in and around the Square, where pro-government attackers opened fire on protesters early on Thursday.
A Government-chartered plane to bring UK nationals home from Egypt left Cairo Airport around 5.15pm (British time) and was due to arrive back at Gatwick around 10.30pm.