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Egyptian police and protesters clashed in the centre of the capital and in the port city of Suez on Wednesday, the

Defiant and adamant to oust Mubarak regime

Protesters defy massive security crackdown to demand Mubarak’s ouster on second day of protests in Cairo, Suez.

 

By Samer al-Atrush - CAIRO

 second day of anti-government rallies threatened with a massive security crackdown.

The interior ministry had banned all protests, and security officials said at least 500 people were arrested around the country.

The figure includes 90 people in Cairo and 121 members of the opposition Muslim Brotherhood in the southern city of Assiut, the officials said without providing further details.

In Cairo, police fired tear gas at hundreds of people gathered near the journalists' syndicate demanding the ouster of President Hosni Mubarak, an AFP reporter said.

Protesters chanted "The people want the ouster of the regime," and threw rocks at police in response to the tear gas.

In Suez, where three demonstrators died on Tuesday, witnesses said police used batons to try disperse at least 2,000 protesters gathered outside a morgue and chanting "Down with Mubarak."

Riot police trucks lined the streets of downtown Cairo where thousands had gathered the day before to demand that Mubarak step down.

Officials said four people -- three protesters and a policeman -- had died in Tuesday's protest in a "day of anger" inspired by the uprising in Tunisia.

The United States, a key Egyptian ally, said Cairo should be "responsive" to its people's aspirations, while both France and Germany urged restraint on all sides.

An Egyptian security official said around 200 people had been detained by Wednesday in the largest protests in Egypt since bread riots in 1977.

Security forces had surrounded the journalists' syndicate on Wednesday, briefly detaining one of its board members.

The pro-democracy youth group April 6 Movement, the driving force behind Tuesday's protests, had urged people to head back to Cairo's main square on Wednesday.

This despite the fact that in the early hours of Wednesday, police had ended the Cairo protests by firing tear gas and rounding up protesters, with reports of dozens arrested or missing.

"Everyone needs to head down to Tahrir Square to take over the square once again," the group said on its Facebook page which, along with Twitter, had helped to organise Tuesday's protests.

In a separate statement, it urged Egyptians to carry on protesting.

"To continue what we started on January 25, we will take to the streets to demand the right to life, liberty, dignity and we call on everyone to take to the streets ... and to keep going until the demands of the Egyptian people have been met," the group said.

The interior ministry said further demonstrations were banned and anyone taking part would be prosecuted.

"No provocative moves, or protest gatherings, or marches or demonstrations will be allowed," the ministry said.

"Legal measures will be taken against anyone (in contravention), and they will be transferred to the prosecution," a statement continued.

April 6 Movement members said they would take to the streets regardless.

"We've started and we won't stop," one said on Wednesday.

On Tuesday, a police deployment of some 20,000 to 30,000 personnel had allowed demonstrators to march to Tahrir Square, where they chanted in unison: "The people want the ouster of the regime."

Among demands are the departure of the interior minister, whose security forces have been accused of heavy-handedness; an end to a decades-old state of emergency; and a rise in minimum wages.

Late Tuesday, the interior ministry said security forces had decided to allow demonstrators "to voice their demands and exercise their freedom of expression," with a commitment to "securing and not confronting these gathering".

But it accused the Muslim Brotherhood of rioting and causing public disorder, which the group denied.

Egypt's stock market saw a sharp decline and the Egyptian pound hit a six-year low of 5.83 to the dollar on Wednesday.

The White House said on Tuesday that Egypt's government should be "responsive" to its people's aspirations and "pursue political, economic and social reforms that can improve their lives and help Egypt prosper."

French Foreign Minister Michele Alliot-Marie said in Paris on Wednesday that France regrets the loss of life in the anti-government protests and supports calls for more democracy "in all countries."

German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle said Berlin was "very worried" by unrest in Egypt and calld on all sides to refrain from violence.

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