Barak Obama Urges Hosni Mubarak's Departure, Calls Egyptian Protestors 'Inspiration'


In another clear sign that the Arab leadership is nervous of a mass uprising in their own backyards, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, whose party has held on to power for four decades, told the Wall Street Journal that he will push for more political reforms in his country.

Fearing similar uprisings, the Arab world has stepped up pressure on Mubarak to resign. The Turkish prime minister became the first international leader to call on Mubarak to hold elections, saying it would be the only solution to the current crisis.

The Egyptian economy has come to a virtual standstill since the protests began a week ago. Banks and the stock market remain closed.

The turbulent situation in Egypt has roiled world markets. Though the Suez Canal remains open, oil prices jumped Monday due to the unrest, and markets remain nervous about the future of the country.

Standard & Poor's on downgraded its rating on Egypt today, becoming the third international ratings agency this week to do so.

As many as 300 people may have been killed since protests began, with more than 3,000 injured and hundreds arrested, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights said in a report today.

Amid the protests, looting and vandalism broke out over the week as police forces, known for being brutal in their counter-tactics, disappeared from the streets. Buildings were set on fire and vigilante groups were set up in various neighborhoods to keep looters from storming private homes.

Protesters say they don't feel like they have a voice and that they are tired of the decades of corruption and inequality under Mubarak's regime. They are angry and frustrated at the country's dire economic situation, high food prices, rising unemployment and decades of corruption and poverty.

Nearly half of Egypt's 80 million people live under or just above the poverty line set by the World Bank at $2 a day.

Demonstrations were sparked by calls on social media to gather and protest. The internet, a prime form of communication, remained blacked out. But Google and Twitter stepped in to fill the gap, creating a "Speak for Tweet" especialy for Egyptians, which turns voicemails into tweets.

ABC News' Lama Hassan, Alexander Marquardt, Miguel Marquez and Kirit Radia contributed to this report.

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