World leaders on 30 January urged Cairo to show restraint in dealing with anti-government protesters as President Hosni Mubarak moves to regain control over Egypt’s spiralling political crisis.

Leaders from the US and Europe called for Mubarak to avoid violence and to deliver political reform as violent anti-government demonstrations across Egypt enter a sixth day.

The calls came after Mubarak on 29 January named intelligence chief Omar Suleiman as his vice-president and Aviation Minister Ahmed Shafiq as prime minister after he forced the resignation of his cabinet earlier on the same day.

Successor

The moves are an attempt by Mubarak to regain control over the country following five days of violent anti-government protests. But the move has also been interpreted as a possible sign that the 82-year-old president could be preparing to step down as President after 29 years in power.   

Suleiman’s appointment in particular is seen as significant because it is the first time Mubarak has appointed a vice president since taking power in 1981.

A close ally of Mubarak, Suleiman has long been viewed as a possible successor to Mubarak. Such a move would provide continuity that would enable the ruling National Democratic Party to remain in power. But it would also bring to an end any plans that Mubarak may have had to install his eldest son Gamal as his successor. Cairo on 29 January denied reports that his son had fled to London.

Protest continue

Clashes between the protesters and the riot police are reported to have left at least 100 people dead in the five days since rallies began on Tuesday 25 January. About 2,000 people are reported to have been injured.

Despite an official nighttime curfew, protesters have remained on the streets. Troops and armoured vehicles have been deployed but have not taken any action. In many neighbourhoods, residents have formed committees to protect their properties from looting.

Cairo stock exchange will be closed on Sunday 30 January.

The unrest in Egypt follows a popular uprising in Tunisia two weeks ago that toppled the regime of President Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali after 23 years in power.

The Tunisian protest were the result of growing anger over rising food prices, high unemployment and anger at official corruption. But they have reflected frustration with governments across the region, triggering a wave of protests.

The speed with which anti-governments protests have spread has been attributed to the growing use of social networking websites and mobile phones among the region’s youth population, as well as the television images of the protests. Governments have sought to disrupt communications networks. Mobile phone services were restored in Cairo on 29 January after days of disruption. But the internet remains down on 30 January.