Protesters urged to step up demos

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Anti-government protesters throw stones during clashes in Cairo, Egypt (AP)

Egyptian protesters trying to topple the regime of President Hosni Mubarak have called on their supporters to fill every square in the capital.

The call followed two days of street battles between the pro and anti-government camps that marked an ugly turn in the country’s crisis.

On Thursday, menacing gangs backing Mr Mubarak attacked journalists and human rights activists as government opponents pushed supporters out of Cairo’s main square.

And the new vice-president, widely considered the first successor Mr Mubarak has designated, fuelled anti-foreign sentiment by going on state television and blaming outsiders for fomenting unrest.

“When there are demonstrations of this size, there will be foreigners who come and take advantage and they have an agenda to raise the energy of the protesters,” Omar Suleiman said.

The government has accused media outlets of being sympathetic to protesters who want the president to quit now rather than serve out his term, as he has vowed to do.

Mr Mubarak, 82, told ABC television in an interview on Thursday that he is fed up and wanted to resign, and is very unhappy about the days of unrest in his country. But he said he could not step down for fear that the country would sink into chaos.

At least eight people have been killed and about 900 injured in the two days of intense fighting around Tahrir.

Under an onslaught of international condemnation for Wednesday’s initial assault on protesters by pro-Mubarak rioters, the government offered more concessions to the protesters, but that did nothing to calm the fury.

The anti-Mubarak movement has vowed to intensify protests to force the president out by today. The Facebook page that started the protest movement said supporters should gather at noon (10am GMT) 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”.

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