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Egypt

Egyptians prepare to unleash day of anger on defiant Mubarak

Crowds in Tahrir Square after Mubarak's speech.
Crowds in Tahrir Square after Mubarak's speech. Reuters/Goran Tomasevic

Egypt is gearing up for massive protests in Cairo and other cities on Friday. Many fear the demonstrations will turn violent as government opponents react with fury to President Hosni Mubarak's refusal to step down before the end of his term. While urging both protesters and security forces to show restraint, US President Barack Obama says Mubarak has failed to make "meaningful or sufficient" change.

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Thousands of people are expected to join street rallies as they leave mosques after Friday prayers, Cairo correspondent Alexandre Bucchianti tells RFI. The numbers could reach record levels, he says.

Some protesters have threatened to march on the presidential palace in Heliopolis, in the north-east of Cairo. If they do, the question will be how the army responds, says Bucchianti, who reports that tanks have trained their guns along the route marchers are expected to take.

In addition to occupying Tahrir Square and blocking the entrance to parliament buildings, protesters have also surrounded state radio and television studios.

In Alexandria, Egypt's second-largest city, crowds of people are reported to have headed towards the military's Northern Command headquarters.

Mubarak had been widely expected to bow to protesters' calls to resign after an army spokesperson told the crowds in Tahrir Square that all their demands would be met.

"The Egyptian people have been told that there was a transition of authority, but it is not yet clear that this transition is immediate, meaningful or sufficient," President Obama said in a statement released shortly after Mubarak's speech.

He called on Egypt's government to put forward "a credible, concrete and unequivocal path toward genuine democracy", saying that their efforts so far had failed to convince the Eygptian people.

It's one of the most critical statements yet from Obama, who called an emergency meeting with security team following Thursday night's speech.

In Tahrir Square, protesters spoke of their frustration at Mubarak's insistence on remaining in office.

"It doesn't show that he understands anything of what's happening," one woman told RFI. "It shows he is completely isolated."

"I will stay until he leaves," said another protester, Ahmed, a student. "We will stay. We have no choice. We will never leave until he leaves."

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