Egypt headed for a Friday of civil war. The military, presumably to preempt violence, spent the day positioning tanks and troops between rival camps of demonstrators. Soldiers also rounded up foreign journalists.
Attempts by the government to open a dialogue with the opposition fell through when the latter said President Hosni Mubarak had to step down first.
All this followed two days of violence between supporters of Mubarak and of the opposition that converted Cairo’s Tahrir Square into a battlefield.
Seven people were killed and 700 wounded in Thursday’s clashes. The opposition plans to hold a massive rally after Friday prayers if Mubarak has not stepped down by then.
Newly-appointed prime minister Ahmed Shafiq offered to “go to Tahrir Square to talk to protestors” and the opposition. But opposition representative Amr Salah said their principal demand, “that Mubarak step down,” had to be met first.
The US led governments around the world in pressing Mubarak to accede to this demand. They also criticised the attempts to detain foreign media.
Meanwhile, Egypt’s problems are being replicated in Yemen. Thousands chanting ‘Down with the regime’ on Thursday scuffled with government supporters in the city of Sanaa, prompting the police to fire teargas into the opposition ranks.