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Wed 9 Feb 2011 05:39 PM

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Egypt counts cost of turmoil, protesters undaunted

Re-invigorated protesters flock again to Cairo's Tahrir Square to demand president Mubarak quit immediately

Egypt counts cost of turmoil, protesters undaunted
CAIRO PROTESTS: A day after Egyptians staged one of their biggest protests yet, the square remained crowded (Getty Images)
Egypt counts cost of turmoil, protesters undaunted

Egyptians counted the economic cost of more than two weeks of turmoil on Wednesday as re-invigorated protesters flocked again to Cairo's Tahrir Square to demand President Hosni Mubarak quit immediately.

A day after Egyptians staged one of their biggest protests yet, the square remained crowded although no demonstration had been scheduled. Karam Mohamed, from Beheira province in the Nile Delta, said the protests were growing.

"We are putting pressure on them little by little and in the end they will fall."

Protesters said the organizers were working on plans to move on to the state radio and television building on Friday, the day of the next big scheduled demonstration.

"I think people outside will make crowds outside the radio and television ... President Mubarak will fall soon, in three or four days," said Mohamed Sadik, a Cairo engineer.

Al Qaeda's Iraqi arm called on Egyptians to topple their government in a holy war, but it was unclear how much influence the group wielded in Egypt where the local Islamist movement has renounced violence and people of widely differing shades of faith want change.

Egyptian government attempts to defuse the popular anger which erupted on January 25 have so far fallen flat and the economy is suffering.

"We cannot bear this situation for a long time and we must end this crisis as soon as possible," Vice President Omar Suleiman said on Tuesday.

With Mubarak insisting he will stay until his term ends in September, analysts at Credit Agricole bank estimate the crisis is costing Egypt $310 million a day.

Ezzsteel, Egypt's largest steel maker, reported its plants were operating below full capacity but said an investigation involving its chairman, who had held a senior position in Mubarak's party, would not affect company activity.

Chairman Ahmed Ezz strongly denied allegations leveled at him about vote rigging in parliamentary elections last November.

In Oslo, Statoil ASA said it was no longer drilling in Egypt.

The Suez Canal, a vital source of foreign currency for Egypt, reported a 1.6 percent drop in revenue in January from December. But the figure was up from a year earlier, and officials have said the canal has been unaffected by the turmoil.

Likewise, a feared collapse in the Egyptian pound has failed to materialize although the authorities have acted in support.

The central bank said on Wednesday it was
prepared to intervene directly in the currency market again after an
intervention on Tuesday, if it sees the need.

will intervene when we see the market is not orderly. If it is not, we
will use our tools," Deputy Governor Hisham Ramez told Reuters, saying
the market so far was quiet and orderly.

Egyptian pound slipped slightly in early trade after the central bank stepped in
to boost it by more than 1 percent on Tuesday when it hit a six-year

of those who swelled the ranks of protesters on Tuesday were joining
for the first time, and some said they were inspired by a Google
executive's tearful televised interview after he was detained by
security forces.

Google had
launched a service to help Egyptians circumvent government restrictions
on using the social network Twitter, enabling them to dial a telephone
number and leave a voice mail that would then be sent on the online

Mubarak has refused to
step down, but said neither he nor his son will stand for president in
polls due in September. Vice President Suleiman, who has been holding
talks with opposition groups, said there was now a road map to hand
over power, but protesters were unmoved by the plan.


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