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Egypt crisis: Mubarak names new vice-president, prime minister

Saturday, 29 January 2011 - 6:04pm IST | Place: Cairo | Agency: PTI

Despite dozens of deaths in Friday's clashes, people turned out in the streets on Saturday in defiance of security forces and said they would carry on protesting until Mubarak quits.

Buckling under mounting pressure, embattled Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak today named a vice-president for the first time in his 30-year rule and chose a new prime minister, as the death toll in nationwide demonstrations climbed up to 51.

As the demonstrations became virulent and entered the fifth day today, curfew defying anti-government  protestors tried to storm the interior ministry in central Cairo after which police opened fire killing three persons.

Mubarak refused to bow to demands to quit but sacked his Cabinet which later resigned and made the two new announcements hoping to quell the massive civilian unrest.

In what appears to be a step toward setting up a successor, 82-year-old Mubarak appointed Intelligence chief and his close confidante Omar Suleiman as the vice-president. Suleiman (75) took the oath of office in front of the president. Mubarak has steadfastly refused to name a vice-president since he came to power in 1981.

Shortly after Suleiman, an army career man, was sworn in, Mubarak asked the current aviation minister Ahmed Shafiq, to form a new government. Shafiq, a former chief of Air Staff, has often been mooted as a potential successor to Mubarak.

As the violence raged, the president went into crisis talks with officials late in the afternoon, after which  the new appointments were made.

Fresh riots erupted in several cities. In Cairo, three people were killed, and an enraged mob killed three policemen in the Sinai border town of Rafah after they attacked the state security headquarters. Regional TV channels reported that the death toll may be between 80 and 100.

Tens of thousands of curfew defying protesters returned to the streets in several cities intensifying their demand that Mubarak quit dissatisfied with his promise in his midnight TV address to the nation to usher in fresh reforms.

Police opened fired on the demonstrators around the city's main Tahrir Square after thousands tried to storm the interior ministry. At least three were killed and their bodies were carried through the crowd of protesters. It was not clear whether police used rubber bullets or live ammunition.

In Tahrir Square, which was the epicentre of Saturday's massive demonstration, there was only a light military presence--a few tanks--and soldiers are not intervening.

On Saturday, protesters besieged a police station in the Giza neighbourhood of Cairo, looted and pulled down Egyptian flags before burning the building to the ground.

An Egyptian health ministry official said 38 people died and 2,000 were wounded in anti-government demonstrations yesterday after Friday prayers. Details of the deaths were announced today. Seven people had died in the first three days of protests.

In yesterday's anti-government riots, 12 people were killed in Cairo, 12 in Suez, eight in Alexandria, three in the canal city of Port Said, two in the Delta city of Mansura and one in Giza, the official said.

The Pyramids on the outskirts of Cairo--Egypt's premier tourist site--were closed by the military to tourists as tanks guarded key government buildings in the Capital, a day after massive and violent confrontations in escalating crisis that threatened 82-year-old Mubarak's ironfisted rule.

In Cairo, there were reports that looting was rampant and lawlessness was spreading fast with gangs of thugs roaming the streets with knives and sticks.

Pro-democracy hero and top dissident Mohamed El Baradei said Mubarak "must go", vowing that protests against his rule would intensify.

"The protests will continue with even more intensity until the Mubarak regime falls,"  the Nobel Laureate and former IAEA chief told a TV channel,

Egyptian state television said that the Mubarak Cabinet has officially resigned after days of protests, hours after the president fired his Cabinet promising democratic and economic reform.

In his first response to the unrest against his iron fisted rule, Mubarak said he had fired the Cabinet.

"I have asked the government to present its resignation and tomorrow there will be a new government," he said in his television speech.

Dozens of military armoured personnel carriers and tanks as well as soldiers on foot deployed around a number of key government buildings in the capital, including state television and the foreign ministry after thousands of protesters besieged the two offices in Friday's riots.

The military was protecting important tourist and archaeological sites such as the Egyptian Museum, home to some of the country's most treasured antiquities, as well as the Cabinet building.

The army warned the people to obey a curfew and to refrain from congregating in public places, according to a statement carried by the official MENA agency.

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