* President orders curfew, mobilises army
* Mubarak says seeks dialogue
* Biggest day of anti-Mubarak protests so far
(Adds quote, protesters still out in early hours of Saturday)
By Edmund Blair
CAIRO, Jan 29 (Reuters) - Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak
refused on Saturday to bow to demands that he resign after
ordering troops and tanks into cities in an attempt to quell an
explosion of street protests against his 30-year rule.
Demonstrators were still out in the streets in the early
hours of Saturday morning, as were looters. Parts of Cairo
looked like a war zone, filled with smoke, rubble and the
choking smell of tear gas.
Mubarak dismissed his government and called for national
dialogue to avert chaos after a day of battles between police
and protesters angry over poverty and autocratic rule. Medical
sources said at least 24 people had been killed and over a
thousand injured in clashes in Cairo, Suez and Alexandria.
"It is not by setting fire and by attacking private and
public property that we achieve the aspirations of Egypt and its
sons, but they will be achieved through dialogue, awareness and
effort," he said in a televised address, his first public
appearance since the protests began four days ago.
The unprecedented unrest has sent shock waves through the
Middle East, where other autocratic rulers may face challenges,
and unsettled global financial markets on Friday. U.S. President
Barack Obama said he had spoken with Mubarak and urged "concrete
steps that advance the rights of the Egyptian people".
The army, deployed for the first time in the crisis, cleared
Cairo's Tahrir square towards midnight. Shortly after Mubarak's
speech, protesters returned in their hundreds, defying a curfew.
They said sacking the cabinet was far from enough.
"It was never about the government, by God. It is you
(Mubarak) who has to go! What you have done to the people is
enough!" said one protester.
Shots were heard in the evening near parliament and the
headquarters of the ruling National Democratic Party was in
flames, the blaze lighting up the night sky. Cars were set
alight and police posts torched.
A Reuters team saw a gang of looters storm into a bank and
carry out the safe.
More than half of the dead in Friday's clashes were reported
in Suez, the eastern city which has been ground zero for the
most violent protests over the past four days.
Mubarak, 82, has been a close ally of Washington and
beneficiary of U.S. aid for decades, justifying his autocratic
rule in part by citing a danger of Islamist militancy. The
Muslim Brotherhood opposition, however, appears to have played
little role in the unrest.
The protests were triggered by the overthrow two weeks ago
of Tunisian President Zine al-Abidine Ben Al Ben Ali. Street
protests in Tunis focused on similar issues of poverty and
political repression. Demonstrations have also flared in Yemen,
Algeria, Sudan and Jordan in recent weeks.
"There will be new steps towards democracy and freedoms and
new steps to face unemployment and increase the standard of
living and services, and there will be new steps to help the
poor and those with limited income," Mubarak said.
"There is a fine line between freedom and chaos and I lean
towards freedom for the people in expressing their opinions as
much as I hold on to the need to maintain Egypt's safety and
stability," he added.
Obama also called on the Egyptian government to halt
interference in access to the Internet, mobile phone service and
Internet social networks that have been used by protesters.
"I want to be very clear in calling upon the Egyptian
authorities to refrain from any violence against peaceful
protesters," he said.
Anthony Skinner, Associate Director of political risk
consultancy Maplecroft, said Mubarak's conduct was reminiscent
of that of Ben Ali in his final days in power.
"Mubarak is showing he is still there for now and he is
trying to deflect some of the force of the process away from
himself by sacking the Cabinet.
"We will have to see how people react but I don't think it
will be enough at all. I wouldn't want to put a number on his
chances of survival -- we really are in uncharted territory."
Markets were hit by the uncertainty. U.S. stocks suffered
their biggest one-day loss in nearly six months, crude oil
prices surged and the dollar and U.S. Treasury debt gained as
investors looked to safe havens.
"I think the next two to three weeks, the crisis in Egypt
and potentially across the Middle East, might be an excuse for a
big selloff of 5 to 10 percent," said Keith Wirtz, president and
chief investment officer at Fifth Third Asset Management in
Many protesters are young men and women. Two thirds of
Egypt's 80 million people are below 30 and many have no jobs.
About 40 percent of Egyptians live on less than $2 a day.
Elections were due to be held in September and until now few
had doubted that Mubarak would remain in control or bring in a
successor in the shape of his 47-year-old son Gamal.
Father and son deny that Gamal is being groomed for the job.
(Additional reporting by Dina Zayed, Marwa Awad, Shaimaa Fayed
and Yasmine Saleh,, Alison Williams and Samia Nakhoul in Cairo,
Alexander Dziadosz in Suez; Writing by Angus MacSwan and Ralph
Boulton; editing by David Stamp)
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