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Egyptian police arrested at least 1,000 people in two days of running street battles, an official said Thursday, as

Cairo burning

Egypt poised for more protests against the rule of Mubarak, Friday after-pray demos very decisive.


By Jailan Zayan - CAIRO

 activists vowed to step up protests in the country's biggest uprising in 30 years.

Six people have died in the protests against the rule of President Hosni Mubarak, which, inspired by the groundbreaking "Jasmine Revolution" in Tunisia, have sent shockwaves across the region and prompted Washington to prod its long-time ally on democratic reforms.

"At least 1,000 people have been detained around the country since the demonstrations started," on Tuesday, a security official confirmed.

Security was out in force on Thursday as more protests were expected.

Undaunted, members of the pro-democracy youth group April 6 Movement said they would defy a ban on demonstrations, vowing to take to the streets again on Thursday and calling for mass demonstrations after Friday's Muslim prayers.

Thursday "will not be a holiday... street action will continue," the group said on its Facebook page.

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

"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 pro-democracy group circulated SMS messages and posted appeals on social networking site Facebook for fresh demonstrations "to demand the right to live with freedom and dignity".

Demonstrations in central Cairo continued into the early hours of Thursday, ending when police fired tear gas and made further arrests.

The authorities on Wednesday declared a ban on demonstrations, which police immediately enforced after having on Tuesday, the first day of the protests, stood back to allow the nationwide demonstrations to go ahead.

In running battles Wednesday afternoon and into the night, police chased demonstrators through the streets of a popular commercial district in Cairo, witnesses said.

Protesters responded by throwing rocks at police, damaging several shop fronts in an area near the information ministry.

There were also clashes as demonstrators pushed their way through a gate into the compound of the foreign ministry before being driven out with tear gas.

Protesters in the northeastern port city of Suez threw Molotov cocktails at a government building, setting parts of it on fire, witnesses said.

Others firebombed and occupied the headquarters there of the ruling National Democratic Party.

Medics said 55 protesters and 15 police were injured in Wednesday's clashes.

And dozens were arrested in Egypt's second city of Alexandria as they tried to reach a sea-front square to demonstrate, witnesses said.

The White House meanwhile issued a nuanced written statement in Obama's name on Egypt.

"The Egyptian government has an important opportunity to be responsive to the aspirations of the Egyptian people, and pursue political, economic and social reforms that can improve their lives and help Egypt prosper," it said.

"The United States is committed to working with Egypt and the Egyptian people to advance these goals," it added.

The statement also underlined US support for basic democratic freedoms "including the rights to freedom of expression, association and assembly".

Prime Minister Ahmed Nazif said the "government is keen to guarantee freedom of expression through legitimate means", but did not elaborate.

The protests are the largest in Egypt since bread riots in 1977, four years before Mubarak came to power.

Among protesters' 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; a rise in minimum wages and an end to rocketing food prices.

Political discontent has been rumbling in Egypt since parliamentary elections in November, which were widely seen as rigged to allow candidates from Mubarak's ruling National Democratic Party to record a landslide victory.

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