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Despite Talks in Egypt, Protests Continue

  • Luis Ramirez

Anti-government demonstrators gather in Tahrir Square, the center of anti-Mubarak protests, in downtown Cairo, Egypt, February 7, 2011

Anti-government demonstrators gather in Tahrir Square, the center of anti-Mubarak protests, in downtown Cairo, Egypt, February 7, 2011

Talks between Egypt's opposition and the government of President Hosni Mubarak have failed to stop thousands from demonstrating and calling for his immediate removal.

The Egyptian capital appeared to be desperate to get back to a normal routine. Traffic was snarled during commute times, with drivers sometimes having to go around army tanks and burned out vehicles - reminders of violent demonstrations.

Banks opened for a second day, but there was still no trading on the stock exchange.

Just as some people want things to return to normal, the demonstrators want to ensure that pressure is sustained on Mr. Mubarak to go, and that their efforts do not fade away.

On day 14, they continued to stream into Tahrir Square.

Key Players in Egypt's Crisis

  • President Hosni Mubarak: The 82-year-old has ruled Egypt for 30 years as leader of the National Democratic Party. Egypt's longest-serving president came to power after the assassination of his predecessor, Anwar Sadat.
  • Mohamed ElBaradei: The Nobel Peace laureate and former Egyptian diplomat has gained international attention as a vocal critic of Mr. Mubarak and his government. Until recently he headed the U.N.'s International Atomic Energy Agency, and he has lived outside Egypt for years. ElBaradei founded the nonpartisan movement National Association for Change, and has offered to lead a transitional administration in Egypt if Mr. Mubarak steps down.
  • Vice President Omar Suleiman: The new Egyptian vice president has served as head of intelligence and is a close ally of President Mubarak. He earned international respect for his role as a mediator in Middle East affairs and for curbing Islamic extremism.
  • Ayman Nour: The political dissident founded the Al Ghad or "tomorrow" party. Nour ran against Mr. Mubarak in the 2005 election and was later jailed on corruption charges. The government released him in 2009 under pressure from the United States and other members of the international community.
  • Muslim Brotherhood: The Islamic fundamentalist organization is outlawed in Egypt, but remains the largest opposition group. Its members previously held 20 percent of the seats in parliament, but lost them after a disputed election in late 2010. The group leads a peaceful political and social movement aimed at forming an Islamic state.

The opposition, like the protesters, says it is not satisfied with the outcome of talks between opposition groups and Mr. Mubarak's government. Those groups include the Muslim Brotherhood, which has been banned for decades.

One of the key leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood group told VOA dialogue can continue only if the government responds to the opposition's demands for deep political reform.

Earlier, another group spokesman, Isaam Eryan, met with reporters. He said no sane person or politician can reject dialogue, but he said this dialogue must be serious, representative and productive.

The Muslim Brotherhood is one the main backers of the demonstrations.

Pressure during the past 14 days has forced Mr. Mubarak to make concessions. He has named a Vice President, announced he will not seek reelection this year, and his party has seen the resignation of its top leaders.

But Egypt's opposition has failed to come up with a united front, and it is divided on how the transition of power should occur.

Some, including the protesters at Tahrir Square, want Mr. Mubarak to depart immediately, and some want him to leave the country or be put on trial. Others want him to stay and say they are grateful for the political stability his government has maintained over three decades, as well as for government entitlements that some have received during his tenure.

A third group includes many of those in the Egyptian capital who went back to work this week hoping for democratic change, but who say they want it in an orderly way that will soon return this country to normal.

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