Egyptian protesters warned to end wave of rallies
Egypt's protest movement galvanised support from unions and the countryside yesterday as it rebelled against plans for a gradual transition of power overseen by the country's old guard.
On the 16th day of protests, the movement's leaders took a more militant line against the regime than the opposition parties that have entered talks with Omar Suleiman, the vice-president.
Mr Suleiman, who held more talks on constitutional reform yesterday, has emerged as the focus of popular anger against President Hosni Mubarak's regime. He enraged demonstrators yesterday by warning that the regime would not tolerate prolonged demonstrations, stating that the options were either "dialogue" or "coup".
"He is threatening to impose martial law, which means everybody in the square will be smashed," said Abdul-Rahman Samir, a spokesman for protesters in Cairo's Tahrir Square. "But what would he do with the rest of the 70 million Egyptians who will follow us afterward?"
The Muslim Brotherhood said that it sided with the protesters. "The real talks on transfer of power have not started," said Essam al-Erian, a senior Brotherhood official. "This is a struggle over the stubbornness of one man."
Wall Ghonim, the Google marketing manager who has emerged as the face of the protests on Tahrir Square after he was freed from prison, demanded the immediate resignation of the president.
He said it was "no longer the time to negotiate" with Mr Mubarak's regime and called on its leading figures to relinquish control. "If you are true Egyptians, if you are heroic Egyptians, it's time to step down," he said.
Protesters sealed off parliament to build on the momentum regained on Tuesday, when they staged their biggest show of force in central Cairo.
By opening a second front, they dashed government hopes of containing the would-be revolution in Tahrir Square.
A huge influx of recruits emerged after a television interview with Mr Ghonim, who initiated an online campaign against the government last year.
Several hundred protesters took control of a stretch of road that included the main entrances to parliament, the cabinet office and the health ministry.
A nationwide strike also grew as ship workers, electricity employees, slum dwellers and farmers protested over low wages, bread shortages and mismanagement. (© Daily Telegraph, London)