Protests continue as Egypt PM tasked with reforms

Cairo, Jan 31 (AFP) Egypt''s embattled President HosniMubarak has tasked his new prime minister on Sunday to ramthrough democratic reforms as thousands of protesters incentral Cairo defied a military curfew to demand the veteranleader''s ouster.

His instructions to Prime Minister Ahmed Shafiq wereread out on state television but had no discernable effect onprotesters who vowed to continue their demonstrations untilMubarak stepped down.

Mubarak, who sacked his cabinet on Friday after anationwide revolt, also said the new prime minister''s prioritywas restricting unemployment and creating new jobs.

"Above all that, and concurrent with it, I emphasisethe importance of urgently, completely, effectively taking newand continuous steps for more political reforms,constitutional and legislative, through dialogue with allparties," Mubarak told Shafiq.

He also instructed the new cabinet, whose members havenot yet been named, to restrict unemployment, end corruptionand restore trust in the country''s economy.

Thousands of protesters stayed put in Tahrir Square,the epicentre of demonstrations in the capital, with somesetting up tents to stay overnight despite a military curfew.

Top dissident Mohamed ElBaradei earlier told a sea ofangry protesters in the square that they were beginning a newera after the six day revolt.

The Nobel laureate, who was mandated by Egyptianopposition groups including the banned Muslim Brotherhood tonegotiate with Mubarak''s regime, hailed "a new Egypt in whichevery Egyptian lives in freedom and dignity."

"We are on the right path, our strength is in ournumbers," ElBaradei said in his first address on Tahrirsquare. "I ask you to be patient, change is coming."

"We will sacrifice our soul and our blood for thenation," the angry crowd shouted. "The people want to topplethe president."

Brotherhood leaders Essam el-Erian and Saadel-Katatni, who walked out of prison earlier on Sunday aftertheir guards fled, also addressed the crowd.

"They tried every way to stop the revolution of thepeople but we will be steadfast regardless of how many martyrsfall," Erian said.

The protests against Mubarak''s three-decade rule haveshaken Egypt and left at least 125 people dead as the veteranleader clings to power.

A curfew slapped on Cairo, Alexandria and Suez onFriday was further extended on Sunday from 3:00 pm to 8:00 am,state television said, leaving citizens only seven hours a dayto take to the street.

Mubarak has struggled to placate a nation angry at histhree decades of autocratic rule with token gestures such assacking the government. (AFP)

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