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‘Million-man’ marches planned as thousands ignore curfew in Egypt

Cairo, Egypt — Fed up up with years of corruption, poverty and lack of opportunity, Egyptians plan another huge wave of demonstrations to protest the rule of embattled Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, who remains in power despite widespread calls for his ouster.
Activists in Cairo and Alexandria, who robustly took to the streets in peaceful rallies Monday, said they are organizing “million-man” marches in those cities for Tuesday, a week after the historic anti-government protests began.
Egyptian security forces in Cairo have been setting up concrete barriers around key locations ahead of the march, including iconic sites such as Tahrir, or Liberation, Square, the Egypt State TV building, and the Interior Ministry.
The demonstrations, inspired in part by a Tunisian uprising, follow years of social, political, and economic grievances that bubbled up among the citizenry, masses of whom have boldly shouted their displeasure with the ruler in public protests.
Ruling Egypt with an iron fist for three decades, Mubarak has given no indication of giving up his 30-year rule and swore in a few new Cabinet members on Monday.
After discharging his previous Cabinet on Saturday, Mubarak appointed his trusted and powerful intelligence chief, Omar Suleiman, as his vice president, the first time the authoritarian regime has had such a post.
The president charged newly appointed Prime Minister Ahmed Shafiq to shape the Cabinet of his reshuffled government, which will have the goal of restoring national security and Egyptians’ faith in their country’s economy.
Meanwhile, there are international indications that the world could accept a changed Egypt without Hosni Mubarak.
While it was widely believed Mubarak was grooming his son, Gamal, as his successor, that plan now has been complicated by demands for democracy.
Mohamed ElBaradei, the Nobel laureate and former head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, is one of several opposition figures whose name surfaces when protesters talk about possible future leaders of Egypt. Among other names is Amre Moussa, head of the Arab League.
Several opposition movements have been represented on the streets in the demonstrations.
A government-imposed curfew began at 3 p.m., but this daily restriction has been largely ignored by protesters over the past few days, and it was again Monday.
In Cairo, the crowd has swelled compared with Saturday and Sunday, and people gathered Monday in Tahrir Square, a focal point of the protests. Some of them said they had spent the night, and the smell of smoke from campfires lingered in the air.
Police have been virtually absent from the streets since Saturday, after a brutal crackdown a day earlier when thousands of riot and plainclothes police clashed violently with protesters.
But police forces were scheduled to start deploying and resuming their duties throughout Egypt on Monday, state-run Nile TV reported.
While it’s difficult to ascertain a solid death toll during the violence, Human Rights Watch staffers have confirmed 80 deaths from two hospitals in Cairo, 36 deaths in Alexandria and 13 fatalities in Suez, according to Heba Morayef, a researcher for the group in Cairo.
The unrest has paralyzed daily life in Egypt, with many grocers closing shop and spotty food shipments.
The Egyptian stock exchange and banks also were closed Monday, and the Moody’s ratings agency downgraded debt ratings for the country because of the turmoil.
Most of Cairo was not operating normally. There were long lines in front of bread shops and supermarkets, ATMs and gas stations were closed, and there was a minimal police presence. In one neighborhood, however, sanitation workers were seen collecting garbage.
Men with makeshift weapons patrolled neighborhoods, creating checkpoints to fill the void left when police stopped patrolling the streets. The self-appointed defense groups appear to be working closely with the military.
The unrest has prompted evacuations of foreigners. More than 200 Americans have departed, the State Department said.

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