EGYPT: Prime minister warns police against interfering with Friday protests
As Egyptians braced for another potential flashpoint in their campaign against President Hosni Mubarak, the country's new prime minister told state-run television that he had ordered police to refrain from disrupting a massive demonstration planned Friday.
Anti-Mubarak protesters who have occupied Cairo's central Tahrir Square since Jan. 25 have set Friday, the main Muslim day of prayer, the deadline for Mubarak's resignation. Activists demanding sweeping reform of the long-reigning autocracy have clashed with the president's supporters over the last two days and some fear another bloody confrontation looms after Friday prayers.
In his first interview since vowing Tuesday to serve out his current presidential term through late this year, Mubarak told ABC News late Thursday that he had tired of the presidency but feared the country would descend into chaos if he were to step down now. He also suggested that Islamic radicals could exploit the power vacuum and gain a strategic foothold in the Middle East.
Prime Minister Ahmed Shafiq, appointed after a Cabinet shakeup last week prompted by the protests, said he had warned the Interior Ministry against interfering with Friday's planned protest march.
Vice President Omar Suleiman, however, ordered protesters to go home and let security forces restore order in the country, sending a mixed signal to government opponents about what they can expect if they take to the streets in droves Friday.
— Carol J. Williams
Photo: Egyptian Prime Minister Ahmed Shafiq speaks at the Interior Ministry in Cairo, Egypt, on Thursday. Credit: Victoria Hazou / Associated Press