Cairo/ Paris: Egyptian soldiers separated supporters and opponents of President Hosni Mubarak in central Cairo on Thursday, deploying infantry to create a buffer zone in an attempt to halt violence between them.
It was the first time the army was seen to act decisively to try to halt the violence, in which six people have been killed and 836 wounded, according to the health minister.
Supporters of President Hosni Mubarak opened fire on protesters in Cairo’s Tahrir Square on Thursday, killing at least five, in a fresh spike in violence over an unprecedented challenge to his 30-year-old rule.
The opposition responded by renewing demands that he quit.
Thousands of dissidents barricaded themselves into the central Cairo square, vowing to remain until Mubarak goes.
The Muslim Brotherhood, a formally banned mass movement seen as the best organised opposition, issued a statement calling for a national unity government to replace Mubarak. The Islamist group, whose potential rise to power troubles Egypt’s Western allies, has so far taken a backseat in the protest movement.
In a statement on Al Jazeera, the Brotherhood said: “We demand that this regime is overthrown and we demand the formation of a national unity government for all the factions.”
Egypt govt denies role in violence
Meanwhile a spokesman for the new government, which Mubarak named this week in a vain bid to appease protesters, denied it was involved in the violence and said it would investigate.
“To accuse the government of mobilising this is a real fiction. That would defeat our object of restoring the calm,” cabinet spokesman Magdy Rady said.
“We were surprised with all these actions,” he said.
Prime Minister Ahmed Shafiq said the violence would be investigated, state television reported.
“The government will take the measures it can to identify who was behind this and try to deal with this,” Rady said.
Rady also said that the army, sent to the streets on Friday after police lost control of protests, had not intervened because it could have been interpreted as taking sides.
“There is faction here and faction there, they (the army) cannot take a side. If they interfere in one side that will defeat their purpose. It would complicate matters more than helping it,” Rady said.
World leaders urge rapid transition in Egypt
With many protesters blaming the government for instigating the crackdown on the previously largely peaceful demonstrations, the UShas renewed its appeal to Mubarak to take steps towards democratic elections at once.
After Mubarak announced on Tuesday that he would stay in office until September and then step down, President Barack Obama telephoned him and said that change “must begin now”. He stopped short of calling him to quit immediately.
Along with the United States, France, Germany, Britain , Itlay and Spain have also urged a speedy transition.
“We are observing a deterioration of the situation in Egypt with extreme concern,” the five European leaders said in a joint statement issued by French President Nicolas Sarkozy’s office in Paris.
The protesters are leading an unprecedented challenge to Mubarak’s 30-year rule. His pledge to step down by September has not satisfied them.
“We condemn all those who use or encourage violence, which will only worsen Egypt’s political crisis,” the statement said, adding that attacks on journalists were “unacceptable”.
“Only a rapid and orderly transition towards a broadly representative government will allow Egypt to overcome the challenges that it is facing.