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Egypt defence minister visits Cairo's Tahrir

Field Marshall Tantawi, Egypt's Defence Minister visits Tahrir Square an hour before the Friday Prayers are set to begin

Reuters, Friday 4 Feb 2011
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CAIRO Feb 4 (Reuters) - Egypt's defence minister visited Tahrir Square on Friday, the day anti-government protesters were seeking to rally another mass protest against President Hosni Mubarak's 30-year rule.

This was the first visit to the epicentre of protests that have convulsed Egypt by a senior minister since they erupted on Jan. 25. The president has responded by saying he would not seek another term in office and pledged sweeping political reforms.

Protesters said Defence Minister Mohamed Hussein Tantawi was talking to the army, who have surrounded the square with tanks and armoured vehicles but who have not prevented demonstrators from gathering there.

"The army and people are united," the protesters chanted after a protester announced over loudspeakers that the minister was in the square.

A witness said a crowd gathered around the minister, who was also promoted to deputy prime minister in a cabinet reshuffle announced in the wake of the protests.

"Field Marshal Tantawi and leaders of the armed forces are currently in Tahrir Square," the Defence Ministry source told Reuters.

He arrived the entrance to Tahrir near the Egyptian Museum, the area which witnessed some of the fiercest violence on Wednesday when Mubarak loyalists charged the protesters.

"Field Marshal Tantawi is here in the square near the Egyptian Museum in Tahrir talking to the army. The atmosphere is pleasant," one protester on the scene said. (Reporting by Marwa Awad and Reuters Television, Writing by Edmund Blair)
 

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