Egypt's regime is willing to talk with the banned Muslim Brotherhood, Egypt's vice president said on Thursday, but warned anti-regime protesters that calls for the immediate departure of President Hosni Mubarak would invite "chaos."
Omar Suleiman, appointed Mubarak's first-ever vice-president last week, also called for anti-government protesters to return home, saying their demands had been met after 10 days of demonstrations.
And he said that bloody confrontations between Mubarak supporters and regime opponents a day earlier, which left at least eight dead, could have been part of a "conspiracy."
Suleiman said the government had invited the Muslim Brotherhood to enter talks between the Egyptian regime and opposition parties aimed at ending the protests against Mubarak.
"Muslim Brothers have been contacted and invited to dialogue... (but) they are hesitant," Suleiman said in an interview with state television.
"They haven't refused, and it is in their interest to (participate in) dialogue. This is a precious opportunity for them," he said.
However, the Muslim Brotherhood quickly responded by saying it "categorically rejects" the offer.
"The Muslim Brotherhood categorically rejects any dialogue with the regime without any hesitation," spokesman Mohammed Mursi said in a statement on the group's website, in response to Suleiman's offer.
"The people have brought down the regime and we see no point in any dialogue with an illegitimate regime," he said.
The Muslim Brotherhood is the largest and most organised opposition group in Egypt, but it is banned as a political party and its followers stand in elections as independents.
They are routinely arrested because of their political activities, and their involvement in any kind of dialogue with the government would represent a huge shift in policy.
They have participated in the demonstrations that have rocked Egypt, but have not led the anti-regime uprising, which showed no sign of dissipating on Thursday.
Suleiman said the government had listened to the demands of the demonstrators and called on them to end their protests.
"To the youth I say: We thank you for what you have done. You were the spark that started reform," he said.
But he urged the protesters to trust the state, warning them from listening to foreign satellite channels which he accused of inciting trouble.
"The government has answered your demands. Give the state the chance to do its job," he said.
And he warned against calls for immediate departure of Mubarak, who has said he will not run for re-election in September but shown no indication he intends to leave office before then.
The demonstrators have dubbed Friday Mubarak's "day of departure," with huge protests planned throughout Egypt.
But Suleiman said any call for Mubarak's "departure is a call for chaos."
He also suggested that deadly clashes between regime opponents and Mubarak partisans on Wednesday could have been an orchestrated "conspiracy."
"We will look into (the violence), into the fact it was a conspiracy," he said, suggesting the clashes could have been instigated by some "with foreign agendas, the Muslim Brotherhood, certain parties or businessmen."
On Thursday, running battles between Mubarak supporters and regime opponents continued on the edge of Tahrir Square, which has become the focal point for the anti-government demonstrations that erupted on January 25.