Following protests in neighboring Tunisia, Egyptians took to the streets today for the seventh day of demonstrations. Angered over corruption, unemployment, poverty and decades of political repression, protesters are calling for the ouster of President Hosni Mubarak, an autocrat who took power in 1981. Tens of thousands of people have taken to the streets, primarily in downtown Cairo, and dozens have been killed in clashes with the police. Organizers hope to marshal 1 million on the streets Tuesday in a show of anger that will force Mubarak to quit.
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President Obama has not outwardly called for Mubarak to step down. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has also treaded lightly, called for an "orderly transition."
Early on in the protests, the Egyptian government shut down the Internet and mobile phone networks, and police patrolled the streets sometimes clashing with protesters by firing tear gas and using their truncheons. Last week the army, a respected Egyptian institution, replaced the police in the streets, and many protesters thought it signaled a shift. Instead, the police returned and protests continued.
After three days of protests, Mubarak addressed the country on television. He fired his cabinet, called for an end to the protests and promised unspecific reforms. For the first time in three decades, Mubarak named a vice president, former the head of the country's intelligence service Omar Suleiman.
Nevertheless, the situation on the ground has worsened as the protesters have been joined on the streets by looters who even tried to steal antiquities from the country's prized museum.
Some suspect, Mubarak handpicked a vice president last week to ensure a smooth transition to someone he knew would be sympathetic.
Omar Suleiman, the former head of the intelligence service, was influential in negotiating secret deals between Israel and the Palestinians and is known as an effective communicator. He is familiar with the halls of power both in Washington and in Israel.
The new vice president announced today that he is organizing new elections in the coming weeks.