Crisis in Egypt: New Elections Announced for Coming Weeks

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After days of allowing protesters to gather in Liberation Square, Egyptian soldiers are deploying more tanks and columns of foot soldiers to try to keep them out. Barbed wire blocked the main road leading to the square, and the army was building a barricade across the street in front of the State TV building.

The military, however, hasn't yet made any move against demonstrators. In fact, in a sign that Mubarak may be losing the support of the country's most revered institution, the Egyptian army released a statement today saying that it will not use force against protesters and that it understands that demands by the Egyptian people are legitimate.

The military was deployed Friday at the height of this week's tension, and unlike the police, it has mostly been welcomed by the public.

Since soldiers began patrolling the streets, it often seemed unclear what their orders were in controlling the protests. Protesters were seen riding on the tanks of soldiers and some soldiers were even seen chanting along with the protesters.

Spokesmen for several of the opposition groups said their representatives were meeting today to develop a unified strategy for ousting Mubarak.

"We don't want life to go back to normal until Mubarak leaves," Israa Abdel-Fattah, a founders of the April 6 Group, a movement of young people pushing for democratic reform, told the Associated Press.

The opposition groups range from youth groups to online activists, old-school opposition politicians and the Muslim Brotherhood.

Mubarak has authorized his newly appointed prime minister to open negotiations with the opposition, according to state television.

Leaders from the opposition groups will also discuss if Nobel laureate Mohammad ElBaradei should be the opposition's leader. ElBaradei, the former head of the United Nations' nuclear watchdog agency, spoke out against Mubarak Sunday on "This Week with Christiane Amanpour," saying only his departure will resolve the volatile situation.

"First step, he has to go. Second step, we have to have a government of national salvation, in coordination with the army... Then, we prepare for a free and fair election, a new constitution and then move on to democracy," ElBaradei said.

Meanwhile, concerned about the impact of the security situation on their country, Israeli officials told the Associated Press today that they have agreed to let Egypt move 800 troops into the Sinai peninsula for the first time since the two countries reached peace three decades ago. Under the 1979 peace treaty, Egypt regained control of the Sinai area but was not allowed to post military forces there.

U.S. Calls For 'Orderly Transition' in Egypt

Demonstrators, angry and frustrated at the country's dire economic situation, high food prices, rising unemployment and decades of corruption and poverty, are demanding an end to Mubarak's 30-year rule that they charge has been filled with corruption.

Demonstrations were sparked by calls on social media to gather and protest, after a similar uprising in Tunisia earlier this month ended the 23-year-long presidency of President Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali. Similar protests have sprouted in the neighboring countries of Yemen and Jordan, and its ripples are being as far away as Pakistan, another close U.S. ally.

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