Egypt Protests, Day 5: Thousands Flout Curfew

Egyptian protesters greet army soldiers atop their vehicles carrying a Egypt flag in central Cairo, Egypt, Saturday, Jan. 29, 2011. Hundreds of anti-government protesters have returned to Cairo's central Tahrir Square, chanting slogans against Hosni Mubarak just hours after the Egyptian president fired his Cabinet but refused to step down. (AP Photo/Ahmed Ali) AP Photo/Ahmed Ali

Last Updated at 10:45 a.m. EST

CAIRO - Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak has named a vice-president for the first time since coming to power 30 years ago, state television has reported.

Mubarak has chosen his intelligence chief and close confidant Omar Suleiman.

The presdient was widely seen as grooming his son Gamal to succeed him, possibly even as for soon as in presidential elections planned for later this year. However, there was significant public opposition to the hereditary succession.

Like Mubarak, Suleiman has a military background. The powerful military has provided Egypt with its four presidents since the monarchy was toppled nearly 60 years ago.

Suleiman has been in charge of some of Egypt's most sensitive foreign policy issues, including the Palestinian-Israeli peace process and inter-Palestinian divisions.

Live Blogging of Egypt Unrest: Day Five
Pictures: Protesters on Streets of Egypt
Special Report: Anger in the Arab World

For the fifth straight day, protesters have taken to the streets of Cairo as President Hosni Mubarak refuses to step down and end his 30-year rule.

Reporting from Cairo, CBS News correspondent Elizabeth Palmer said the streets have been filling with thousands and thousands of people, coming from all directions and marching freely - in marked contrast to the scenes witnessed yesterday, when running battles between protesters and Egyptian police carried on late into the night.

The death toll since the largest anti-government protests in decades began Tuesday rose to 45, according to medical and security officials, 38 of them killed since Friday. Some 2,000 injuries have been reported.

Dozens of tanks and armored personnel carriers were fanned out across the city of 18 million, guarding key government building a day after large, violent confrontations emboldened the movement demanding a change of leadership. There was rampant looting across the sprawling city of 18 million and a growing feeling of fear and insecurity.

In the city's main Tahrir Square, at the center of Saturday's massive demonstration, there was only a light military presence - a few tanks - and soldiers are not intervening. Few police were seen in the crowds and the protest began peacefully but then police opened fire on some people in the crowd near the Interior Ministry and a number of them were wounded by gunshots. It was not clear whether they used rubber bullets or live ammunition.

One army captain joined the demonstrators, who hoisted him on their shoulders while chanting slogans against Mubarak. The officer ripped a picture of the president.

"We don't want him! We will go after him!" demonstrators shouted. They decried looting and sabotage, saying: "Those who love Egypt should not sabotage Egypt!"

In other developments, Egyptian state television said the Cabinet of Prime Minister Ahmed Nazif has resigned on the president's orders. President Mubarak told the nation in a televised address shortly after midnight that he had decided the sack the Cabinet.

The protests are the most serious challenge to Mubarak's rule since he came to office nearly 30 years ago, but the 82-year-old leader made no mention in his address of the calls for him to step down.

Palmer said today phone service - which had been cut in anticipation of Friday's protests - have been restored here, but the quality is not very good.

Yesterday demonstrators fought back against volleys of tear gas and rubber bullets, and at last broke through police lines, flowing into the city's central Freedom Square.

Egyptians went to sleep having seen (and on a huge scale taken part in) an historic event, says Palmer. Many dared hope the president would be forced to resign. But after midnight, when Hosni Mubarak finally addressed the nation, it became clear he wasn't going anywhere. But he was, he conceded, going to fire the cabinet.

At almost the same time, the army rolled into the streets. People woke up to find soldiers manning checkpoints across the city, and tanks parked at strategic points.

So far, the crowds haven't been hostile to the military, which doesn't have the same reputation for brutality and corruption as the police.

The crowds are building up again today. The demonstrators still want to see the end of Mubarak, and they don't believe the vague promises he made in his speech about creating jobs and giving Egyptians more democracy.

While the world's attention has been focused on Cairo, similar demonstrations are taking place all over Egypt. In Suez, about two hours away, the violent unrest is now in its fifth day, and at least 12 people have been killed.

The people are wondering who is in charge here, and it's not clear. Palmer says everyone is waiting for a sign from the army, on whether they will support President Mubarak in his bid to stay in power, or whether they're going to send a message to him that he's too much of a liability - if he stays, the country descends into chaos - and so engineer his departure. If they impose some kind of stability, it could in fact amount to a military coup.

Foreign tourists and Egyptians flocked to Cairo's main airport on Saturday, scrambling to find flights out of the country. Between 1,500 and 2,000 travelers were at the airport's two main departure terminals, most without reservations and frantic to find any available seats of outbound flights.

Some European and U.S. airlines began announcing cancelations or suspensions of service to Cairo, and Egypt's national carrier was said to be experiencing lengthy delays.

The U.S. State Department is urging Americans with plans to travel to Egypt to stay home.

CBS News chief White House correspondent Chip Reid reports that President Barack Obama is monitoring the situation in Egypt very closely.

Mr. Obama had a 30-minute phone conversation with President Mubarak, then came before the cameras at the White House and urged Mubarak to stop the violence.

"The people of Egypt have rights that are universal," he said. "That includes the right to peaceful assembly and association."

The president is walking a fine line, said Reid, between supporting Egypt's citizenry protesting the 30-year regime of their president, and not abandoning a current and key ally in the Middle East.

The president stressed the importance of listening to the people and called for the immediate restoration of access to the Internet and social media. At the same time he cautioned protesters to avoid violence.

"Destruction will not lead to the reforms that they seek," he said.

The White House is preparing for all possible scenarios, and reviewing Egypt's $1.5 billion aid package. While the president isn't calling on Mubarak to step down, he is urging him to make good on his promise of reform.

Former State Department spokesperson Jamie Rubin, now executive editor of Bloomberg View, said on CBS' "The Early Show on Saturday Morning" that the White House is in an extremely difficult situation.

"I think they're struggling, really - they're afraid of either, on the one hand, being on the wrong side of history, supporting Mubarak too long, and seeing the people rise up and change the country without the United States' support. On the other hand, they are concerned that if they give up on Mubarak too quickly, and he ends up surviving in a, perhaps a bloody crackdown, he won't forget any time soon that at the time of trouble the United States didn't support him.

"For example, today the Saudi Arabian king announced his support for Mubarak. Clearly the group of leaders, the coterie of kings and autocrats and rulers in that part of the world, get a little nervous when one of them falls," said Rubin.

Rubin said the White House is also very worried that the unrest may jeopardize the Middle East peace process. "The Israeli/Palestinian peace process, that peace between Israel and Egypt, Israel and Jordan, our relationship with Israel - that that is at risk," he said. "Because the opposition to Mubarak, certainly the known opposition, Islamic Brotherhood, the Muslim Brotherhood, would be less supportive of that peace process. They also know that in their coalition against Iran, they're trying to build to prevent Iran from getting a nuclear weapon, Mubarak has been a strong ally in that. So they're worried, what would come next?

Rubin also referred to the 2009 demonstrations in Iran. "There were demonstrations on the street, and Ahmadinejad, the president there, cracked down. President Obama kind of got caught on the wrong side of that. He never really demonstrated American support for the people on the ground.

"They don't want to make that mistake again," said Rubin. "And that's why I think you're seeing him ramp up the rhetoric and put more and more pressure on Mubarak."

The protests in Egypt rattled Wall Street Friday. After eight straight weeks of gains the Dow plunged 166 points, while the price of oil soared.

On CBS' "The Early Show on Saturday Morning," Michael Pantoli, associate editor of Barron's, said oil prices should not be affected by the current unrest unless the situation spreads far beyond Egypt.
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