Mubarak''s supporters clash with anti-govt protesters


Cairo, Feb 2 (PTI) Hundreds of supporters of Hosni Mubaraktoday clashed with anti-government activists in Cairo during amassive rally against the besieged President who has vowed toquit by September, even as the military ordered the protestersdemanding the leader''s immediate ouster to "go home".

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

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

Mubarak''s supporters also damaged banners denouncing thePresident.

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 theoutbreak of the uprising against the 30-year rule of Mubaraknine days ago, issued a decree asking the people to end theirdemonstrations.

"Your message has arrived. Your demands have becomeknown," Military Spokesman Ismail Etman said on the statetelevision in an address, marking a shift in the army''s stand,with the men in battle fatigues apparently throwing theirweight behind Mubarak.

Opposition parties defied the army orders to "go home"saying they planned to go ahead with another huge rally afterthe Friday prayers. Their leaders have served an ultimatum onMubarak to quit by then.

Egypt''s army, hugely popular with the public, has sofar refrained from interfering in the huge protests that haveso far claimed over 150 lives and it was not immediately knownwhether 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 inSeptember, but said he had no intention to flee Egypt.

Mubarak went on TV to announce that he would not contestthe September polls, but would also not step down immediately,an offer which failed to calm public fury as clashes eruptedbetween his supporters and opponents in major cities.

"I say in all honesty and regardless of the currentsituation, that I did not intend to nominate myself for a newpresidential term," he said.

His address beamed over giant TV screens on the TahrirSquare -- the hub of anti-government protests in heart ofCairo -- was greeted by boos and jeers by the mammoth crowdswho chanted "Go Go Go Now Mubarak."

In his 10-minute address, Mubarak said he would not fleethe country. "I will die on Egyptian soil," he said.

The President, who appeared somber, said he would servethe remaining part of his term to accomplish necessary stepsfor peaceful transfer of power and carry out amendments to therules of Presidential polls. (More) PTI ZH APV KIM AKD AKJ

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