CAIRO — Police and garbage collectors appeared on the streets of Cairo Monday morning and subway stations reopened after soldiers and neighborhood watch groups armed with clubs and machetes kept the peace in many districts overnight.
Banks, schools, and the stock market remained closed for the second working day. Long lines formed outside bakeries as people tried to replenish their stores of bread, the main source of sustenance for most Egyptians.
Barbed wire sealed off the main road to Tahrir Square, a central downtown plaza that demonstrators have occupied since Friday, turning it into the national focal point of calls for the ouster of President Hosni Mubarak, whom they blame for widespread poverty, inflation, and official indifference and brutality during his 30 years in power.
Thousands of people had gathered into Tahrir, or Liberation Square, by early morning. Many slept sprawled on the grass or in colorful tents. Others were filtering into the square in the early morning.
Protesters called for a general strike and civil disobedience starting Monday.
"We don't want life to go back to normal, but until Mubarak leaves, we want people to abandon their jobs until he leaves," said Israa Abdel-Fattah, one of the protests organizers and one of the founders of April 6 group, a grass-roots movement of young people that has been pushing for democratic reform since 2008.
Countries sent planes to evacuate their citizens from the unrest as world leaders called on Mubarak to implement reforms and seek a peaceful resolution to the crisis.
Egypt's economy took another blow as Moody's Investors Service has downgraded Egypt's government bond rating to Ba2, and changed its outlook from stable to negative. The revision in the outlook on Monday is at least the second downgrade by an international ratings agency since mass protests erupted in Egypt last week. The bond ratings were cut from Ba1.
State TV reported that Mubarak has given instructions to the new cabinet to alleviate economic burdens on citizens. State-run newspapers also reported that Mubarak has asked his new prime minister to introduce reforms and ensure "wider participation" by political parties.
A leading Muslim Brotherhood official told The Associated Press that the fundamentalist movement wants to form a committee of opposition groups along with Nobel laureate and leading reform advocate Mohammad ElBaradei as a way of uniting the disparate groups calling for Mubarak to go.
Saad el-Katatni said his group has not picked ElBaradei to represent it, but if the committee members agree on naming ElBaradei as the head of the committee, "this is fine."
"We didn't deputize anybody because we don't want anybody to be solely in charge," el-Katatni said.
The outlawed Muslim Brotherhood is Egypt's largest opposition movement, and wants to form an Islamist state in the most populous Arab nation. Its support base comes in large part from its elaborate network of social, medical and education services. It made a surprisingly strong showing in parliamentary elections in 2005, winning 20 percent of the legislature's seats, but it failed to win a single seat in elections late last year and are widely thought to have been rigged in favor of Mubarak's ruling party.
Mubarak, a former air force commander in office since 1981, is known to have zero tolerance for Islamists in politics, whether they are militants or moderates, and it remains highly unlikely that he would allow his government to engage in any dialogue with the Brotherhood.
© Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.