Egypt remains tense; sabotage adds new dimension to unrest

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Rania

Cairo, Feb 5 (PTI) Uncertainty and tension grippedEgypt today with international clamour growing on beleagueredPresident Hosni Mubarak to hand over power immediately assaboteurs blew up a key gas pipeline to Israel adding a freshdimension to the 12-day old crisis in the Arab nation.

As unprecedented protests raged at the famous TahrirSquare in central Cairo, the state TV reported "dangerousexplosions continuing from one spot to another" in the mainsource of gas supplying pipeline in El Arish.

The attackers used explosives to blow up the 240km-long pipeline in the town of Lihfen in northern Sinai near theGaza Strip and the army shut down the gas supplies to Israeland Jordan, Egyptian officials said.

"It''s big terrorist operation," the state-tv quoted anofficial as saying, who blamed the attack on "foreignelements."

The attack on the pipeline came after Israel, whichreceives 40 per cent of its gas demand from Egypt, expressedconcern that the supplies could be threatened if a new regimetakes over in Cairo.

The attack happened as tens of thousands of peopleheld demonstrations against Mubarak with no sign of an end toconfrontation which has pitted the 82-year-old leader againstthe anti-government protesters.

With no let up in protests fury, President Mubarak,who appeared increasingly cornered, held a meeting of his newcabinet to revive the economy and project calm in the face ofthe increasing turmoil.

The meeting was attended by Egypt''s new Prime MinisterAhmed Shafiq as well as the central bank governor and theministers of petroleum, social solidarity, trade and industry,and finance.

Finance Minister Samir Radwan announced that the banksand stock market will reopen by Monday as he termed theeconomic situation in the country as "very serious".

Government analyst claim that the uprising is costing thecountry at least USD 310 million a day.

The President appears to have dug in his heels withthe prime minister announcing that Mubarak had no intention toquit or transfer power to his deputy Omar Suleiman as beingsuggested by the country''s major allies like US.

The state-tv reported that Mubarak''s meeting tookplace on Saturday morning in the presidential palaceHeliopolis, a Cairo suburb miles away from Tahrir Square. MOREPTI ZH AKD AKJ

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