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Bloody clashes rock Cairo as regime stands firm

CAIRO (AFP) - Partisans of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak
stormed the Cairo stronghold of anti-regime protesters on Wednesday, sparking bloody clashes in which the government said three people were killed.

Anti-government protestors demonstrate in Egypt.(AP-Yonhap)
Anti-government protestors demonstrate in Egypt.(AP-Yonhap)

 Washington, which has called for restraint since demonstrations broke out
nine days ago, deplored the violence against "peaceful protesters" while UN
chief Ban Ki-moon said the attacks on demonstrators were "unacceptable."

   The European Union added its voice to calls from US President Barack Obama for the transition from Mubarak's three-decade-long rule to begin immediately after the veteran president announced late on Tuesday that he would not seek re-election in September.

   But the Egyptian foreign ministry said such calls "sought to inflame the
internal situation," while Vice President Omar Suleiman, newly appointed just
this week, insisted there could be no dialogue with the opposition until all
the protesters went home.

   From early afternoon until well into the night, regime supporters and
opponents threw stones and battled with sticks and fists in Cairo's Tahrir
Square, the epicentre of the nine straight days of protests that have rocked
the Egyptian regime and sent shock waves around the Arab world.

   Tension had been rising from early morning when Mubarak supporters began staging their own rallies around Cairo, saying the president represented stability amid growing insecurity, and branding as "traitors" those who want his departure.

   A hard core of tens of thousands of anti-regime protesters had remained at
Tahrir Square through the night, angry at the 82-year-old's refusal to step
down immediately in line with the demands of opposition leaders for a clean
break with his regime.

   Witnesses and AFP correspondents said bands of Mubarak supporters raided the square without warning, some on camels and horses, creating mayhem that quickly degenerated into violent clashes.

   Regime supporters dropped concrete blocks on the opposition protesters from the roofs and balconies of surrounding buildings.

   The worst of the fighting was just outside the world-famous Egyptian
Museum, which was targeted by vandals last week.

   Soldiers deployed in the square took cover from the projectiles after
initially standing on tanks to appeal in vain for calm.