US renews reform call to Mubarak


Egyptian Wael Ghonim talks to the crowd in Cairo's Tahrir Square after his release (AP)

The United States has called on the Egyptian government to immediately lift the country’s emergency laws.

The White House said vice-president Joe Biden made the plea during a telephone call with his Egyptian counterpart Omar Suleiman, who is managing the crisis.

The conversation took place just hours after one of the main internet organisers of the country’s protests was freed from custody to a tumultuous welcome from crowds of demonstrators.

Wael Ghonim joined a massive gathering in Cairo’s Tahrir Square and was greeted with cheers, whistling and thunderous applause when he declared: “We will not abandon our demand and that is the departure of the regime.”

Many in the crowd said they were inspired by Mr Ghonim, a 30-year-old Google marketing manager who was a key figure in the online campaign that sparked the first protest on January 25 to demand the removal of president Hosni Mubarak.

Straight from his release from 12 days of detention, Mr Ghonim gave an emotionally charged television interview where he sobbed over those who have been killed in two weeks of clashes.

He arrived in the square when it was packed shoulder-to-shoulder, a crowd comparable in size to the biggest demonstration so far that drew a quarter of a million people. He spoke softly and briefly to the huge crowd from a stage and began by offering his condolences to the families of those killed.

“I’m not a hero but those who were martyred are the heroes,” he said, breaking into a chant of “Mubarak leave, leave.”

When he finished, the crowd erupted in cheering, whistling and deafening applause.

Mr Ghonim has emerged as a rallying point for protesters, who reject a group of traditional Egyptian opposition groups that have met the government amid the most sweeping concessions the regime has made in its three decades in power. About 130,000 people have joined a Facebook group nominating Mr Ghonim as the spokesman of their uprising.

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