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Mubarak's supporters clash with anti-govt protesters

world Updated: Feb 02, 2011 21:45 IST

Hundreds of supporters of Hosni Mubarak today clashed with anti-government activists in Cairo during a massive rally against the besieged President who has vowed to quit by September, even as the military ordered the protesters demanding the leader's immediate ouster to "go home."

For the first time, 82-year-old Mubarak's supporters took to the streets and urged the President, who has been in power since 1981, not to quit under any circumstances.

They marched into an anti-Mubarak rally of thousands of people on the Tahrir (Liberation) Square and engaged in fist fights, witnesses were quoted as saying by the media.

Mubarak's supporters also damaged banners denouncing the President. During the massive anti-regime rally at the Square, protesters chanted slogans like "Mubarak you have to go now.

Go, Go now," as the military for the first time since the outbreak of the uprising against the 30-year rule of Mubarak nine days ago, issued a decree asking the people to end their demonstrations. "Your message has arrived.

Your demands have become known," Military Spokesman Ismail Etman said on the state television in an address, marking a shift in the army's stand, with the men in battle fatigues apparently throwing their weight behind Mubarak. Opposition parties defied the army orders to "go home" saying they planned to go ahead with another huge rally after the Friday prayers. Their leaders have served an ultimatum on Mubarak to quit by then.

Egypt's army, hugely popular with the public, has so far refrained from interfering in the huge protests that have so far claimed over 150 lives and it was not immediately known whether its new warnings were a prelude to any clampdown. Its warning came as Mubarak, buckling under pressure, promised not to stand for presidential elections scheduled in September, but said he had no intention to flee Egypt.

Mubarak went on TV to announce that he would not contest the September polls, but would also not step down immediately, an offer which failed to calm public fury as clashes erupted between his supporters and opponents in major cities. "I say in all honesty and regardless of the current situation, that I did not intend to nominate myself for a new presidential term," he said.

His address beamed over giant TV screens on the Tahrir Square -- the hub of anti-government protests in heart of Cairo -- was greeted by boos and jeers by the mammoth crowds who chanted "Go Go Go Now Mubarak." In his 10-minute address, Mubarak said he would not flee the country. "I will die on Egyptian soil," he said. The President, who appeared somber, said he would serve the remaining part of his term to accomplish necessary steps for peaceful transfer of power and carry out amendments to the rules of Presidential polls.

The announcement could mark a major turn in the attitude of the army, which for the past two days has allowed protests to swell, reaching their largest size yet yesterday when a quarter-million peacefully packed into Cairo's central Tahrir Square. The President's supporters marched into an anti-Mubarak rally of thousands of people on the Tahrir (Liberation) Square and engaged in fist fights, witnesses were quoted as saying by the media.

They also damaged banners denouncing the President. During the massive anti-regime rally at the Square, protesters chanted slogans like "Mubarak you have to go now. Go, Go now," as the military for the first time since the outbreak of the uprising against the 30-year rule of Mubarak nine days ago, issued a decree asking the people to end their demonstrations.

"Your message has arrived. Your demands have become known," Military Spokesman Ismail Etman said on the state television in an address, marking a shift in the army's stand, with the men in battle fatigues apparently throwing their weight behind Mubarak.

Opposition parties defied the army orders to "go home" saying they planned to go ahead with another huge rally after the Friday prayers. Their leaders have served an ultimatum on Mubarak to quit by then. Egypt's army, hugely popular with the public, has so far refrained from interfering in the huge protests that have so far claimed over 150 lives and it was not immediately known whether its new warnings were a prelude to any clampdown.

Its warning came as Mubarak, buckling under pressure, promised not to stand for presidential elections scheduled in September, but said he had no intention to flee Egypt. Mubarak went on TV to announce that he would not contest the September polls, but would also not step down immediately, an offer which failed to calm public fury as clashes erupted between his supporters and opponents in major cities.

"I say in all honesty and regardless of the current situation, that I did not intend to nominate myself for a new presidential term," he said. His address beamed over giant TV screens on the Tahrir Square -- the hub of anti-government protests in heart of Cairo -- was greeted by boos and jeers by the mammoth crowds who chanted "Go Go Go Now Mubarak." In his 10-minute address, Mubarak said he would not flee the country. "I will die on Egyptian soil," he said. The President, who appeared sombre, said he would serve the remaining part of his term to accomplish necessary steps for peaceful transfer of power and carry out amendments to the rules of Presidential polls.