Mubarak names deputy but it’s not enough

Despite first signs of climbdown by President,protesters defy curfew to demand ouster.

Written by Reuters | Cairo | Published:January 30, 2011 12:24 am

Egypt’s President gave the first indication on Saturday he was preparing an eventual handover of power by naming a vice-president for the first time in 30 years after protests that have rocked the foundations of the state.

Hosni Mubarak’s decision to pick Omar Suleiman,his intelligence chief and confidant,as his deputy,and a former air force commander,Ahmed Shafiq,as the next Prime Minister,is the first time the 82-year-old leader has hinted at a succession plan and may suggest he will not run in an election scheduled for September.

Suleiman,74,has long been central in key policy areas,including the Palestinian-Israeli peace process,an issue vital to Egypt’s relationship with the US,a key aid donor.

Some protesters,whose actions forced Mubarak to send the Army onto the streets,were not happy with a decision that looks set to ensure power stays in the military’s hands. “He is just like Mubarak,there is no change,” a protester told Reuters outside the Interior Ministry,where thousands were protesting,moments after the appointment.

Mubarak’s decision on Friday to sack the government failed to impress protesters.

The speaker of Parliament said there was no plan to meet demands for early elections.

For some,naming Suleiman as the formal right-hand of Mubarak was a relief after the panic as security in Egypt disintegrated.

Analysts said it was the first indication that Mubarak had realised the magnitude of the upheaval that gripped Egypt.

But a professor in Cairo said,“The street will not be convinced by Suleiman at this moment unless he addresses the people and says there will be a new system and that Mubarak has handed power over to him and that the military is in control of the situation and has a programme of a democratic transition.

In Cairo,soldiers repelled protesters who attacked a central government building. But elsewhere in the city,troops took no action as people stayed on the streets despite warnings to stay indoors. About 50 people approached a military cordon carrying a sign reading “Army and People Together.” Soldiers pulled back a barrier and let them through: “There is a curfew,” one lieutenant said. “But the Army won’t shoot anyone.”

Thousands flocked to Cairo’s Tahrir Square,waving Egyptian flags. “The people demand the President be put on trial,” they chanted.

In Alexandria,police used teargas and live ammunition against demonstrators. Protests continued after curfew,witnesses said.

According to a Reuters tally,74 people have been killed. Medical sources said at least 1,030 people were

injured in Cairo.Edmund Blair & Dina Zayed

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