Cairo: Egypt's ruling
party announced a major shake-up Saturday with several top leaders
resigning - but President Hosni Mubarak showed no signs of
relinquishing power despite a 12th straight day of protests.
Gamal Mubarak, the son of the embattled president, resigned from
his job as a political head of the ruling National Democratic
Party (NDP), whilst Safwat el-Sherif, left his post of secretary
Both were to be replaced by Hossam Badrawi - a member of the NDP
and the upper house of parliament, the Shura Council.
But Mubarak himself showed no signs of giving into demands from
anti-government protesters, who gathered in central Cairo's Tahrir
Square again Saturday to call for his removal.
Broadcaster al-Arabiya late Saturday retracted an earlier report
that Mubarak had resigned his post as chairman of the NDP.
Meanwhile, Western leaders attending the Munich security
conference called for an orderly transition to democracy in Egypt.
"There has to be some orderly transition process in place to avoid
a total vacuum of power," German Chancellor Angela Merkel said.
US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton spoke of a "perfect
storm" battering the Arab world and invited future Egyptian
governments to be inclusive, to successfully move to democracy.
Mubarak's role in a smooth transition to democracy "remains
utterly critical in the days ahead," said US special envoy to
Egypt, Frank Wisner.
While thousands turned up in Cairo to chant against Mubarak, rain
and fatigue seemed to be taking a toll on the protesters and
reflected in the dwindling numbers present, at least Saturday.
But when General Hassan al Rawini, commander of the Egyptian
Army's central command, urged them to go home, they responded in
one voice - they would not leave until Mubarak resigns.
Many protesters slept overnight in Cairo's central Tahrir Square,
camping out in tents and defying a curfew, which entered into
effect after dark.
Earlier Saturday, Mubarak met with ministers holding economic
portfolios and the head of the central bank, as concerns mounted
over the country's economy. One estimate said Egypt has been
hemorrhaging more than $300 million a day for the past week due to
Mubarak was being advised to allow for a "dignified exit", with
one option being a shift of power to his newly appointed vice
president, Omar Suleiman, and later a group of technocrat
ministers, while keeping his titular job as head of state.
An informal grouping of respected Egyptian intellectuals, dubbed
locally as the "wise men", made the proposal Friday, saying they
had opened a line of communication with Suleiman, who was
responding to their proposals.
Prime Minister Ahmed Shafiq doubted the idea would work, however,
stressing that Mubarak would not stay beyond the end of his term
Reports in the US media, including The New York Times, indicated
that Western officials were also looking for a graceful departure
for the president, who has ruled for nearly 30 years.
One suggestion being floated was that he move to his residence in
the resort town of Sharm el-Sheikh, far from the central seat of
command in Cairo.
Another option was a relocation to Germany for what would be
called extended medical treatment - following the intensive care
he has received there in recent years.
"The revolution will not come to an end until this demand (for
Mubarak to step down immediately) is met," said Abdel-Rahman
Youssef, a youth activist, who had met with Shafiq.
The premier has been urging both sides to offer "concessions".
"On our part, we are prepared to talk with everyone," said Shafiq,
adding that this included the banned Muslim Brotherhood, the
largest organized opposition group, which was trying to present
itself as a moderate force.
"The revolution is a peaceful one which calls solely for reform
and a democratic civil state," said Khaled Hamza, editor of
IkhwanWeb, the Muslim Brotherhood's website. It "is by no means
linked to any Islamic tendencies," he said in a statement.
Hundreds of thousands took part across the country in protests
Friday, their so-called "Day of Departure" for Mubarak. The events
were mostly peaceful, following two days of heavy clashes between
the demonstrators and groups supporting the president earlier in
At least 5,000 people have been injured since the unrest in Egypt
began Jan 25, said Health Minister Ahmed Farid. The UN estimates
that more than 300 have died, mainly last week, in clashes with