A massive demonstration is due to be held in Cairo as protesters step up their efforts to force President Hosni Mubarak from power. Organisers say they hope one million will come onto the streets in what is expected to be the biggest show yet. A rally is also planned in Alexandria. Egypt’s powerful army has vowed it will not use force against the protesters. Meanwhile, new Vice President Omar Suleiman says he will hold cross-party talks on constitutional reform. Mr Mubarak reshuffled his cabinet on Monday to try to head off the protests, replacing the widely despised Interior Minister Habib al-Adly. But correspondents say that the army’s statement has been a major blow for President Mubarak, and appears to have encouraged protesters. The feeling that change is coming in Egypt is getting stronger, says the BBC’s Middle East editor Jeremy Bowen in Cairo. Too much has happened too quickly to go back to the way things were before, he says.
At least 100 people have been killed across the country since protests began a week ago following an internet campaign and partly inspired by the ousting of President Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali in Tunisia last month. Egypt has since cut off internet in the country and text messaging services have been disrupted. Google announced late on Monday that it was operating a special service to allow people in Egypt to send Twitter messages by dialling a phone number and leaving a voicemail. Some protesters defied the curfew and continued to camp out in Tahrir Square through the night, saying they would stay there until Mr Mubarak’s 30-year-long rule ends. One demonstrator, Tarek Shalabi, told the BBC that groups were camped out in tents or sleeping out in the square, and described the atmosphere as “overwhelming”.
Tahrir Square protesters say they plan to march Friday to the presidential palace in Heliopolis unless the army makes its stance clear. Youth-led groups issued a statement calling for all Egyptians to march on the palace, the People’s Assembly and the television building, in what they are calling the “Friday of Departure.” They say the army must choose which side they are on: That of the people, or the regime. “We the people and the youth of Egypt demand that our brothers in the national armed forces clearly define their stance by either lining up with the real legitimacy provided by millions of Egyptians on strike on the streets, or standing in the camp of the regime that has killed our people, terrorized them and stole from them,” read the statement.
The protesters say the army has until Thursday morning to make its position clear. A lack of response will be interpreted as support for Egypt’s ruling regime. The march will commence after Friday Muslim prayers and Christian services, according to the statement. Meanwhile, the liberal Democratic Front Party is expected to release a statement later on Monday calling on the military not to take part in cracking down on protesters. “We believe that the president is trying to involve the army in a confrontation with the people,” Ibrahim Nawar, official spokesman for the party, told Al-Masry Al-Youm. “In our statement we will remind the army that it is the shield of the people.” Nawar added that he expects military presence will be beefed up in Cairo and Giza to prevent large numbers of protesters from reaching Tahrir Square, which has become the central gathering area of tens of thousands of protesters for the last six days.