Egypt's ElBaradei, Islamists reject govt talks offer

Five killed, over 800 injured in deadly Cairo clashes


Prominent opposition activist Mohamed ElBaradei and the Muslim Brotherhood rejected a call on Thursday by the prime minister for talks saying President Hosni Mubarak must leave office first, they told Reuters on Thursday.

Prime Minister Ahmed Shafiq invited opposition groups to talks on Thursday. Some groups had agreed, including the liberal, nationalist Wafd party, which is a legal party. The Brotherhood is banned.

"We have refused to meet. Any negotiations are conditional on Hosni Mubarak stepping down and also conditional on security in Tahrir square," ElBaradei told Reuters by telephone.

"We would also like to add that we refuse anything that results from this meeting," said Mohammed al-Beltagi, a former member of parliament from the Brotherhood, adding that his group backed the conditions outlined by ElBaradei.

Five people have been killed and more than 800 were wounded in Cairo when supporters loyal to Mubarak opened fire at anti-government demonstrators demanding Mubarak to step down, Egypt health ministry said on Thursday.

Al Arabiya television quoted a doctor at the scene as saying a barrage of gunfire rang out across the square at around 0400 am (0200 GMT). Another witness said as many as 15 people had been wounded.

Following the deadly clashes in and around Cairo’s Tahrir square, the number of protesters in the two opposing camps decreased to a few thousands.

Live footage showed renewed clashes with molotov cocktail and stones as the army began to move and take positions between the two camps.

Anti-Mubarak protesters they had detained 120 people carrying identities associating them with either the police or the ruling party, most of them caught while attacking the demonstrators.

Kamal Ismail, an official in a committee organizing the protests, showed a Reuters journalist two identity cards confiscated on Thursday from men he said had tried to infiltrate the protest camp. One of them belonged to a police officer.

He said most of those detained had been overpowered by the protesters during confrontations that began on Wednesday afternoon when supporters of President Hosni Mubarak tried to force anti-Mubarak demonstrators from a central Cairo square.

The anti-Mubarak protesters have been handing their detainees over to the army, he said.

Clinton, Suleiman Speak

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton spoke yesterday with Suleiman and urged him to conduct a probe into violence, said Philip J. Crowley, the State Department spokesman.

Crowley said the U.S. doesnt know who is behind attacks on protesters in Cairo. Whoever they are, there needs to be accountability here, Crowley said. This was clearly an attempt at intimidating the demonstrators.

Former Ambassador Frank Wisner was returning to the U.S. after telling Mubarak on Jan. 31 that his time in office was coming to an end, Crowley said.

The protests wont stop until he leaves or is ousted, said Rime Allaf, associate fellow of the Middle East and North Africa Programme at Londons Chatham House. The opposition is clear that they want the fall of the regime, not just Mubarak.

Meanwhile, the State Department issued a stark travel warning Wednesday for US citizens in Egypt, urging those who want to leave to "immediately" head for the airport, adding that any delay was "not advisable."

"Do not wait for a call from the U.S. embassy. Further delay is not advisable," the State Department warned, adding: "Additional US government flights after Thursday are unlikely."

About 1,900 US citizens and their family members have been evacuated from Egypt since Monday, officials said.

The Obama administration Wednesday pressed Mubarak to move "farther and faster" on handing over power as his supporters waged bloody street battles in Cairo.

Prolonged political deadlock

The violence caused administration officials to worry about the effect of a prolonged political deadlock and proved to be a catalyst for many in the U.S. Congress who now want Mubarak to leave power sooner rather than later.

And as Mubarak no longer appeared to be the ally he was for three decades, there were signs senior US policymakers were trying to keep their potentially pivotal relationships intact with Egypt's politically powerful military.

Reiterating Obama's own appeal to Mubarak on Tuesday, Clinton stressed to Suleiman that the political transition "has to start now," her spokesman Philip Crowley said.

He said Egyptian government officials should start a national dialogue involving opposition figures, members of civil society, and the army -- a process that should ultimately lead to genuine democratic elections.

Mubarak appears to be digging his heels in after defying more than a week of massive protests calling for his immediate ouster, although he did concede on Tuesday that he would not run for re-election in September.