Egypt Military Tells Protesters to Go Home

Demonstrators shout slogans next to Egyptian soldiers on Feb. 1, 2011 as protesters flooded the Egyptian capital's central Tahrir Square. Getty Images

Updated at 7:13 a.m. Eastern.

CAIRO - The Egyptian military called Wednesday for an end to more than a week of demonstrations against President Hosni Mubarak, throwing its support behind his embattled regime hours after he defiantly rejected demands to step down immediately and said he would serve out his term in office.

The declaration was a clear shift in the stand of the army, which gave a tacit endorsement to the movement on Monday by saying it would not use force against protesters, and that they had legitimate demands.

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But the messages from Mubarak and the military did little to calm the streets of Cairo.

On Wednesday, the opposition movement - unsatisfied with Mubarak's vows - was joined in central Cairo by thousands of pro-Mubarak demonstrators, rallying in support of the long-time leader. With emotions running high, violence soon erupted between the opposing sides.

CBS Radio News correspondent Vicki Barker reports clashes around her in Cairo turned "very angry, very ugly, very fast".

According to Al Jazeera, some Mubarak supporters were seen entering the square carrying knives. Al Arabiya reports that the pro-Mubarak element were trying to incite violence as anti-Mubarak protesters cried "we don't want to involve the army in this."

Mubarak supporters were out in the streets for the first time Wednesday in large numbers, with thousands demanding an end to the anti-government movement a day after the president went on national television and rejected demands for him to step down.

The anti-Mubarak protesters brought more than 250,000 people into Cairo's main square Tuesday to demand he leave within days. The president responded before midnight on Tuesday with a statement pledging to serve seven more months in office "die on Egyptian soil."

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The army's message to the demonstrators Wednesday had a conciliatory tone, appealing to young protesters to stand down "out of love for Egypt."

"You have started coming out to express your demands and you are the ones capable of returning normal life to Egypt," military spokesman Ismail Etman said in an address on state television. "Your message has arrived, your demands have become known."

Immediately after his statement, state television ran a scrolling message reading: "The armed forces call on the protesters to go home for the sake of bringing back stability."

Ahmed Abdel Hamid, representing The Revolutionary Committee, one of several youth groups that organized the anti-Mubarak protests, said that the regime was going all out to pressure people to stop protesting.

"Starting with the emotional speech of Mubarak, to the closure of banks, the shortage of food and commodities and deployment of thugs to intimidate people, these are all means to put pressure on the people"

The movement against Mubarak is fueled by deep frustration with an autocratic regime blamed for ignoring the needs of the poor and allowing corruption and official abuse to run rampant.

After years of tight state control, protesters emboldened by unrest in Tunisia took to the streets on Jan. 25 and mounted a once-unimaginable series of protests across this nation of 80 million.
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