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Tension rises ahead of final push to oust Mubarak

The Egyptian regime faced down Washington and the international community as protesters prepared to assemble in Cairo today for a final push to force President Hosni Mubarak to stand down.

It remained unclear last night what role the army and the police would play in retaining order during the planned protests.

In a television broadcast last night, Vice-President Omar Suleiman set the stage for what is likely to be a decisive confrontation after today's prayers.

He rejected calls from his Western allies that the transition of power "start now" -- a suggestion that Mr Mubarak should quit.

"The call for leaving is a call for chaos," Mr Suleiman said.

"It is strange that friendly nations are interfering in our internal affairs.

"Providing support is one thing but dictating to us what to do -- this is unacceptable."

The statement came after the government made several concessions.

It promised an inquiry into who organised the attack on protesters in Tahrir Square in the capital on Wednesday.

It also ordered that former ministers, including the interior minister Habib al-Adly, be banned from leaving the country and have their assets frozen.

But Mr Suleiman went no further. His comments came after US President Barack Obama increased the pressure on Mr Mubarak.

Mr Obama was clearly frustrated by the violence from forces loyal to Mr Mubarak on Wednesday.

Mr Obama told the national prayer breakfast, an annual event in Washington: "We pray that the violence in Egypt will end and that the rights and aspirations of the Egyptian people will be realised, and that a better day will dawn over Egypt and throughout the world." (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent