Egyptian protesters rally for 'day of departure'
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Crowds were gathering in Cairo's Tahrir Square on Friday morning, preparing for an eleventh day of protests on what the Egyptian opposition has designated President Hosni Mubarak's "departure day". Prime Minister Ahmed Shafiq has told the Interior Ministry to allow peaceful protests to go ahead undisturbed, according to state TV.
Opposition leaders have called for mass rallies nationwide after the end of midday prayers. They have set Friday as their deadline for Mubarak to leave office.
In Cairo, correspondents report that thousands of anti-government protesters are massing in Tahrir Square. Many of have camped out overnight.
The Egyptian army has repeated its promise not to fire on protesters, acording to US Admiral Mike Mullen. He said in a TV interview that the army had nonetheless "taken steps to try to quell the violence".
On Thursday night, Vice President Omar Suleiman told those occupying Tahrir Square: "End your sit-in. Your demands have been answered."
He denies that government supporters were behind violence this week that killed at least eight people and injured over 800 more.
"They behaved very well," Suleiman told the US television channel ABC News. Asked about reports of shooting into crowds of protesters, he insisted, "No. Nobody being killed by rifles or by snipers. No way."
He said that the government would investigate the violence, suggesting that it may have been "a conspiracy" instigated by people "with foreign agendas, the Muslim Brotherhood, certain parties or businessmen".
According to Suleiman, the largest opposition party, the Muslim Brotherhood, has been invited to join talks between the government and the opposition in a bid to end the unrest.
The Islamist movement has refused the invitation, as have most opposition groups, saying that no negotiations are possible until Mubarak resigns.
The Muslim Brotherhood will not enter a candidate in presidential elections scheduled for September, senior party member Mohamed al Beltagui told Al Jazeera television on Friday.
Mubarak has pledged not to run in the next elections, but refuses to step down before the end of his term. He told ABC on Thursday that he was "fed up" with power, but feared that Egypt would descend into chaos if he resigned.
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