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Violent protests erupt on streets of Egypt

January 28, 2011 12:00:00 AM PST
Embattled Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak says he has asked his Cabinet to resign in his first appearance on television since protests erupted.

During a press conference, Mubarak, 82, gave no indication of resigning and said he will press ahead with social, economic and political reforms.

"As the president of this country and with all the power that the Constitution has given me, I assure you that I'm working for the people and giving freedoms of opinions, as long as we are respecting the law," he said.

He called the recent anti-government protests part of plot to destabilize Egypt and destroy the legitimacy of his regime.

In a news conference from the White House Friday afternoon, President Obama called on Egyptian authorities to refrain from using violence against peaceful protesters

Egypt has strategic value to the United States for several reasons, including an important partnership in the fight against terrorism. A peace treaty between Egypt and Israel brought stability to the region. If the Suez Canal were suddenly shut down due to the unrest, global oil/gas prices would skyrocket.

Latest developments

  • Protesters have seized the streets of Cairo, battling police with stones and firebombs, burning down the ruling party headquarters.
  • Egypt's national carrier says it has suspended its flights from Cairo for 12 hours. EgyptAir said its flights from abroad will be able to land, but departures were canceled from 9 p.m.
  • Hundreds were looting television sets and electric fans from the burning complex of buildings used by the ruling party.
  • Nobel Peace laureate Mohamed ElBaradei has been placed on house arrest after joining the protests.
  • The U.S. State Dept. has issued a warning to Americans to defer all non-essential travel to Egypt during the crisis.

Protesters are hoping to challenge Mubarak's 30-year rule.

The Mubarak regime looked desperate, shutting the country's Internet service down and blocking cell phone networks. The regime also disrupted Facebook and Twitter, the new engines of the uprising. But they couldn't stop word of mouth from spreading the call to protest.

Protesters say they are determined to keep the momentum of the protest alive.

The ruling party headquarters in Cairo was ablaze in the outpouring of rage and utter frustration with a regime seen as corrupt, heavy-handed and neglectful of grinding poverty that afflicts nearly half of the 80 million Egyptians.

Mubarak has been in power for decades and is a longtime ally of the United States. Washington wants its old ally to reform, but worries about what might replace him.

President Barack Obama convened his national security team on the growing protests in Egypt as aides voice concern about violent clashes between demonstrators and police.

"We urge the Egyptian authorities to allow peaceful protests and to reverse the unprecedented steps it has taken to cut off communications," said Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

The protests follow similar demonstrations in Tunisia, where protesters there forced the country's president to flee the country.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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