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Egyptian officials say outsiders encourage crisis

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Courtesy of MCT Campus

A day after pro- and anti-government protesters clashed violently downtown, anger aimed at foreigners appeared to spread Thursday in this capital.

Egyptians continued coping with political and social chaos, including long lines to buy food from dwindling supplies or to withdraw money from automated teller machines.

Courtesy of MCT Campus

Conversations on streets suggested a small but growing number of Egyptians favor ending the protests and the ensuing upheaval in their lives. Others vow to press on until President Hosni Mubarak leaves office, even as gunfire reverberates.

The new vice president, Omar Suleiman, widely considered the first successor Mubarak has designated, fueled anti-foreign sentiment by going on state television and blaming outsiders for stirring unrest. The government has accused media outlets of being sympathetic to protesters who want the president to quit now rather than serve out his term, as he has vowed to do.

Mubarak, 82, told ABC in an interview that he was fed up and wants to resign. But he said he can’t for fear the country would sink into chaos. He said he was very unhappy about the two days of clashes in central Tahrir Square.

“I do not want to see Egyptians fighting each other,” he was quoted as saying.

Prime Minister Ahmed Shafiq, appointed by Mubarak after government ministers resigned last week, said the interior minister should not obstruct peaceful marches during what protesters have dubbed the “Friday of Departure,” state television said. Organizers of the protest, who call themselves The Youth of the Revolution, hope to gather 1 million demonstrators.

Tarik Samer, an event planner who joined in three days of street protests, said he hopes today’s protest “doesn’t work out, because there’s no need for more” now that Mubarak said he will not run for office again. He promised to leave office after a presidential election in September.

“Let people return to work,” Samer said. “We can get rid of (Mubarak) without making all of Egypt into Tahrir Square,” the downtown square that drew the largest demonstrations in recent days.

Protests engulfing Cairo since Jan. 25 shuttered businesses, forced factories to halt operations, closed banks and the stock exchange, and limited suppliers’ ability to restock store shelves. The price of some basic goods spiked more than 50 percent, and the shortages and price increases are fueling anger and adding to the economic pinch that gave many protesters a reason for joining the demonstrations.

The Washington Post, the New York Times, CBS News and the global Al Jazeera network reported the detention of correspondents trying to report on the growing lawlessness gripping the Egyptian capital.

Courtesy of MCT Campus

Reporters for National Public Radio and Foreign Policy magazine suffered blows to the head from pro-Mubarak attackers. Reuters television reported that a camera crew was beaten up near Tahrir Square while filming a story about the unrest’s economic fallout. A Swedish television journalist for SVT, whose editors feared had been kidnapped, was found in a Cairo hospital, severely beaten. A Greek journalist for the newspaper Kathimerini was stabbed in the leg, and a photographer with him struck on the head.

A day earlier, CNN anchor Anderson Cooper and ABC’s Christiane Amanpour said they were punched and kicked by pro-government henchmen who smashed their crews’ equipment. The Mubarak supporters descended on   Tahrir Square — some clad in uniforms of Giza pyramid sentries and riding camels and horses — to attack what had until then been a peaceful protest of the president’s 30-year grip on power.

Los Angeles Times photographer Carolyn Cole and two Associated Press reporters were detained while covering the melee, as were journalists from Al Arabiya network, four Israeli correspondents and a Belgian who was writing for French-language publications.

Fox News Channel reported that correspondent Greg Palkot and cameraman Olaf Wiig were “severely beaten” Wednesday, and BBC correspondent Rupert Wingfield-Hayes was detained, blindfolded and interrogated after his car was forced off the road in Cairo.

Clashes continued February 3 in Tahrir Square, a day after forces loyal to Mubarak attacked a far larger crowd of opponents.

Health ministry officials reported 13 deaths and more than 1,200 injuries in Wednesday’s melee.

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