Egyptian protesters want Mubarak out by Friday

Thousands of protesters again defy a curfew in Cairo, taking to the streets Monday for a seventh straight day of anti-government demonstrations and demanding that President Hosni Mubarak step down by Friday.

Thousands of protesters defied a curfew in Cairo again on Monday, taking to the streets for a seventh straight day of anti-government demonstrations and demanding that President Hosni Mubarak step down by Friday.


Reporter Susan Ormiston:

"The crowds in Tahrir Square continue to grow in anticipation of a million-person demonstration planned for tomorrow. We've already spoken to people who've bused in from cities two hours from here to join the march."

Even as Mubarak's new cabinet held its first meeting Monday, a coalition of opposition groups began calling for a million people to protest in the Egyptian capital on Tuesday to demand his removal.

The coalition includes youth movement groups as well as the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood. They were discussing the possibility of making prominent reform advocate Mohamed ElBaradei a spokesman for the protesters, according to spokesmen for several of the groups' members.

About 40 coalition representatives were meeting to discuss the future of Egypt after Mubarak. They blame the 82-year-old for widespread poverty, inflation and official indifference and brutality during his 30 years in power.

In an apparent attempt to show change, State TV reported that Mubarak has given instructions to the new cabinet to alleviate economic burdens on citizens. Mubarak dropped the interior minister, who is in charge of security forces and whom protesters had denounced for the brutality of police.

Women shout during an anti-government demonstration in Cairo on Monday. A coalition of opposition groups called for a million people to take to the streets of the Egyptian capital on Tuesday to ratchet up pressure for President Hosni Mubarak to leave. ((Mohammed Abou Zaid/Associated Press))

State-run newspapers also reported that Mubarak has asked his new prime minister to introduce reforms and ensure "wider participation" by political parties.

Vice-President Omar Suleiman said Mubarak has given him the go-ahead to talk to "political forces" about the constitution, but there is no indication who exactly those forces might be.

Mubarak's lineup, dominated by regime cronies, was greeted with scorn by protesters camped out in the capital's central Tahrir Square, also known as Freedom or Liberation Square.

Barbed wire sealed off the main road to Tahrir Square, but at least 50,000 flocked there anyway. Banks, schools and the stock market in Cairo were shut for the second working day.

"We don't want life to go back to normal, but until Mubarak leaves, we want people to abandon their jobs — until he leaves," said Israa Abdel-Fattah, one of the protest organizers and a founder of April 6 group, a grassroots movement of young people that has been pushing for democratic reform since 2008.

CBC's Nahlah Ayed, reporting from Cairo, said more people continue to arrive at Tahrir Square, despite the fact there is more security on the streets. She said tanks and soldiers are deployed around the square, around the entrances and along the way to it.

"They're checking IDs," Ayed said. "They're even more active today than they were yesterday. Things seem a little more tense today."

Police were also back on the streets on Monday, she said. Some people expressed relief following nights of looting and random violence.

"On the other hand, there is quite a bit of anger from people saying, 'Where were they when we needed them?'" Ayed said.

Since thousands of protesters took to the streets in Cairo and other major cities across Egypt last Tuesday, more than 97 people have been killed, according to official figures, but reports from witnesses across the country indicated the actual toll was far higher. About 2,000 have been injured.

The Egyptian military's role remains unclear. Several protesters said they have felt a kind of solidarity with the army. On Monday, military spokesman, Ismail Etman, appeared on state TV, saying Egypt's military recognized "the legitimacy of the people's demands" and promised to guarantee "freedom of expression" ahead of a planned escalation of the country's week-old anti-government protests.

Etman said the military "has not and will not use force" against protesters, but he urged them not to commit acts harming security or damage property.

With police absent from the streets, gangs of armed men attacked as many as four jails across Egypt before dawn Sunday. About 1,000 inmates escaped from Prison Demu in Fayoum, southwest of Cairo, state-run Nile TV reported.

Looters broke into Cairo's famed Museum of Egyptian Antiquities Friday night, tearing the heads off two mummies and damaging about 10 objects before they were arrested.

Zahi Hawass, Egypt's antiquities chief, said the museum is now under army protection.

Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, right, swears in unidentified members of his new government cabinet, as broadcast Monday on Egypt State TV. ((Egypt State TV/Associated Press))

Meanwhile, world leaders called for a peaceful transition to democratic elections.

On Monday, White House spokesman Robert Gibbs dismissed Mubarak's move on to appoint a new government, saying the situation in Egypt calls for action, not appointments.

The White House is calling for free and fair elections in Egypt, but refusing to say whether the U.S. believes Mubarak should run in those contests.

Canada's Foreign Affairs Department late Monday afternoon advised "against all travel to Egypt due to demonstrations and protests, civil unrest, high levels of criminal activity and violence throughout the country, and the threat of terrorist attacks."

Countries have sent planes to evacuate their citizens. In Ottawa, Foreign Minister Lawrence Cannon said he expects some 600 Canadians to fly out of Egypt on Monday.

Canada will also be working with other countries, including the U.S., the U.K. and Australia, to help get Canadians out of Egypt. Cannon said, for instance, that Canadians in Alexandria will have the opportunity to leave Tuesday on an Australian carrier.

Egyptians crowd to buy bread in Cairo on Monday. ((Amr Nabil/Associated Press))

Canada originally had two flights scheduled to leave Cairo on Monday, but Ayed, who was at the  airport, said it appeared there may be only one plane leaving with Canadians.

Ayed reported that Egyptian officials had asked passengers to come up with $2,000 US and were not allowing the Canadian plane to leave even after the money was paid. 

The problem appeared to be resolved after Canadian officials contacted the Egyptian Ambassador in Ottawa, who in turn called authorities in Egypt to query the additional fees.

The department of Foreign Affairs said the payment was apparently charged for excess luggage. The department reminded Canadians to carry only one piece of luggage.

About 200 Canadians were processed before entering the terminal, and  "there was mention possibly of another plane tomorrow [Tuesday] because there were supposed to be two today," Ayed said.

"That second plane may be there for whoever shows up tomorrow, but the process itself is fluid, and it's difficult to determine exactly how it goes."

During the day, other world leaders also weighed in on the crisis in Egypt.

British Prime Minister David Cameron said there needs to be an orderly transition to a more democratic situation where there are greater rights and freedoms.

Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said his government is "anxiously monitoring" what's going on.

"In a state of chaos, an organized Islamic group can take over a country," Netanyahu said. "It has happened. It happened in Iran.

"A takeover of oppressive regimes of extreme Islam violates human rights, grinds them to dust … and in parallel also pose a terrible danger to peace and stability."

Egypt was the first Arab nation to sign a peace agreement with Israel in 1979.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who is visiting Israel, said: "Dialogue is necessary, freedom of thought is necessary, peaceful treatment of demonstrators is necessary."

With files from The Associated Press