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Egypt Protests Swell Despite Government Steps on Reform

  • Luis Ramirez

Anti-government protesters hold an Egyptian flag during demonstrations in Tahrir Square in downtown Cairo, Egypt, Feb. 8, 2011

Anti-government protesters hold an Egyptian flag during demonstrations in Tahrir Square in downtown Cairo, Egypt, Feb. 8, 2011

Tens of thousands of people have poured into Cairo's Tahrir Square, giving new momentum to anti-government demonstrations that are in their third week. The protesters are keeping up pressure on President Hosni Mubarak to resign, despite an announcement Tuesday that his government is making new concessions.

The announcement was meant to give protesters an incentive to go home and wait for President Mubarak to step down in seven months as he has already said he would do.

Instead, tens of thousands of people headed Tuesday for Tahrir Square, where thousands of others have been camping out in tents.

Newly appointed Vice President Omar Suleiman sought to lay out a roadmap Tuesday for what he said is the peaceful transfer of power that President Mubarak wants. Suleiman said the Egyptian president has set up commissions to review amendments to Egypt's constitution and investigate last week's violence between Mubarak supporters and anti-government protesters.

The vice president offered reassurances to the demonstrators, many of whom are young people, saying Mr. Mubarak believes young people deserve to be appreciated and has given instructions that protesters should not be prosecuted nor have restrictions imposed on them or their freedom to express themselves.

The government announcement, and new surge of protesters, came while much of Cairo appeared to go back to normal activity, after banks and shops reopened this week and people returned to work for the first time in several days.

Mr. Mubarak has made a number of concessions since the demonstrations began in late January, first by appointing a vice president, then by announcing he will not seek reelection, then by allowing for the resignation of the top leaders of his party, and later by raising the salaries and pensions of public sector employees.

But the government's attempt to lay out a roadmap for constitutional changes and a slow transfer of power is not resonating among opponents including demonstrators like this man, a Muslim preacher.

He says the demonstrators' goal is not just to - in his words - oust the system, but to change the system. He says he is not asking for name changing, or the appointment of a vice president or party reforms.

The protests have continued and grown despite the government's concessions, raising further uncertainty about Egypt's political future.