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Egypt’s under-pressure president sacks cabinet and pledges reform

Muhammad Hosni Mubarak sacks his government and promises economic and political reforms, as protests continue.

An Egyptian anti-government activist kisses a riot police officer following clashes in Cairo yesterday.
An Egyptian anti-government activist kisses a riot police officer following clashes in Cairo yesterday.
Image: Lefteris Pitarakis/AP

EGYPT’S LONGSTANDING and under-fire president yesterday sacked his government and promised to introduce a series of economic, social and political reforms in the country, as thousands defied curfews to continue protests in the country’s streets.

Muhammad Hosni Mubarak, in a late-night address to the public, said he had been “closely following the protests”, and had concluded that the demonstrations were expressing “legitimate expectations for more speed in halting unemployment and enhancing living, fighting poverty and standing firmly against corruption”.

In that light, he said, he had asked the government to present its resignation, and would set about naming a new cabinet today in order to best deal with the priorities set down by the people.

The resignation is be handed in by the current government at around the time of publication.

While promising to oversee the transition to a new political structure, crucially Mubarak – who has been in power since 1981 – appeared not to accept any responsibility for the public’s current dissatisfaction – a move which may have fuelled the continued protests overnight, as tens of thousands remained on the streets, defying curfews.

The White House has waded into the affair; last night Barack Obama called on the authorities not to pursue violence against protestors, and spent 30 minutes speaking to Mubarak on the phone as he asked his Egyptian counterpart to turn the conflict into a “moment of promise” for democratic reform.

The headquarters of Mubarak’s National Democratic Party building remain on fire today, however, after coming under heavy civilian attack at sunset. Reporters on the ground say that a greater army presence has been welcomed by civilians, hoping for a greater level of security to restore a relative peace to the country.

Internet services remained largely unavailable this morning, though it had emerged that the government had merely disconnected DNS services – meaning more tech-savvy users could still access sites like Twitter and Facebook if they had those sites’ IP addresses.

While the Department of Foreign Affairs has yet to issue a travel advisory to people intending on visiting the country, Britain’s Foreign Office has cautioned against “all but essential” travel.

Yesterday’s protests, in photos and video >

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