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Egyptian Protests Expected After Friday Prayers

Former Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency, IAEA, and Nobel Peace Prize winner Mohamed ElBaradei talks to members of the media as he arrives at Cairo's airport in Egypt, from Austria, January 27, 2011.

A university professor told VOA Egyptian demonstrators have vowed to continue their nationwide protests to press home their demands for political and social reforms after Muslim prayers Friday.

Howayda Mostafa, professor of mass communication at the University of Cairo, said social media networks, including Facebook and Twitter continue to play a crucial role in the organization and effectiveness of what she described as non-partisan, but youthful protests demanding reforms.

“Since yesterday (Thursday), all the websites say that, after the prayers, there would be demonstrations everywhere. So, everyone knows that, after the prayers, many of the people will go outside to demonstrate to continue (what has been) happening two days ago,” said Mostafa.

“It is the first time we have many manifestations, but it wasn’t like what we saw two days ago because of the numbers. The demonstrators are from many categories of Egyptian people, not a category which we (usually) expect every time. They demonstrate because this time it wasn’t one political force. But, most of them are young people from different economic and social (backgrounds).”

Mostafa said President Mubarak’s government is yet to officially respond to the Tunisian-inspired protests.

Egyptian police and protesters clashed Thursday in two eastern cities in the third straight day of anti-government demonstrations.

Police fired tear gas and rubber bullets at protesters in Suez, Thursday. Protesters in the city set a government building and police post on fire late Wednesday. Others attempted to firebomb the ruling National Democratic Party's local headquarters before police pushed them back with teargas. At least 55 people were hurt in the clashes. Also, hundreds of protesters clashed with police in the city of Ismailia.

Mostafa said President Mubarak’s government seems surprised by the sudden protests demanding he cede power and institute reforms.

“I think the regime was not expecting these demonstrations because (they) are different. It is not only the opposition that are demonstrating, but other people from many categories. Many political forces benefit from the climate of this demonstration. The regime wasn’t expecting this amount of people,” Mostafa said.

Meanwhile, Nobel Laureate and reform campaigner Mohamed El Baradei returned to the country Thursday from Austria. He told a small group of supporters who greeted him at the airport that it is what he called a "critical time in the life of Egypt.”

“I think he (El Baradei) will benefit from this organization of people. But, I think El Baradei has lost some of his popularity and some of his credibility. Even the opposition forces who support El Baradei now are not like before, maybe because he is always abroad, he didn’t continue his support for change. But, we heard that he will participate today (Friday) in this demonstration,” said Mostafa.

White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said the United States is urging Egypt's government and protesters to exercise restraint.