Anti-government protests in Egypt moved into a seventh day Monday after military jets began fly-overs of the capital. The United States, a long-time Mubarak ally, has called for an "orderly transition" in the country.
Forces in Egypt are in a standoff
Egypt braced for a seventh day of protests Monday as protesters continued to defy the government's curfew, demanding President Honsi Mubarak's ouster - and a general strike.
Several hundred protesters stayed put in Cairo's Tahrir Square overnight Sunday, defying government orders to return home as fighter jets buzzed over demonstrators' heads in a show of force.
Arab international broadcaster Al Jazeera - despite an Egyptian government ban - reported that tens of thousands of anti-government protesters had once again gathered in central Cairo Sunday, while demonstrations were also underway in the northern city of Alexandria.
Military jets made low and noisy passes over the capital and army helicopters hovered over the crowds assembled in Tahrir Square on Sunday in an apparent effort to send protesters back to their homes before a curfew. A curfew covering most of the country came into force at 4 pm (2 pm GMT), though it was not being strictly enforced.
More tanks and soldiers were flooding into the protest areas, but soldiers were still granting people free movement to most areas.
Mohamed ElBaradei, who has become a rallying figure for opposition forces, joined the demonstrations Sunday, telling marchers that "what we have begun cannot go back."
"We are on the right path," the Nobel peace laureate said in his first address on Tahrir Square. "I ask you to be patient; change is coming."
Mubarak has held power in Egypt for nearly 30 years
Leaders of the banned Islamist opposition group Muslim Brotherhood, Essam el-Erian and Saad el-Katatni, who walked out of prison earlier on Sunday after their guards fled, also addressed the crowd.
"They tried every way to stop the revolution of the people but we will be steadfast regardless of how many martyrs fall," Erian said.
Law and order disappear
According to eyewitness reports, the police presence in the streets of the capital had all but vanished as ordinary Egyptians banded together in preparation for yet another night of trying to protect their homes and businesses from the riots and looting.
According to police and medical officials, at least 150 people have died in the unrest since it was triggered on Tuesday.
Mubarak has so far given no signs he is ready to step down from the Egyptian presidency, which he has held since 1981.
Earlier Sunday, the president held talks with top military officials, including his newly appointed vice president, Omar Suleiman, and his defense minister, Mohamed Hussein Tantawi, at military headquarters.
State television reported Sunday that Mubarak had charged his new prime minister, Ahmed Shafiq, with putting through new democratic reforms.
But as Mubarak continued to dig his heels in, the situation on the ground continued to worsen.
Egyptian security officials said thousands of prisoners have escaped from penitentiaries across the country, with an estimated 6,000 inmates believed to have broken out of the Wadi Natrun facility north of Cairo after armed members of the Muslim Brotherhood stormed the building and overcame guards.
In Cairo, 34 Brotherhood members, including 7 leaders of the banned Islamist organization, left a prison unhindered after guards abandoned their posts.
The Muslim Brotherhood has shaped as Egypt's main opposition force during the protests, with the transnational organization calling on ElBaradei to negotiate directly with the Mubarak regime.
Mohamed ElBaradei says he now has a mandate to negotiate change
Gamal Nasser, a spokesman for the Brotherhood, said Sunday the group was in talks with ElBaradei to form a national unity government omitting Mubarak's National Democratic Party.
ElBaradei told US international broadcaster CNN on Sunday that Mubarak must leave "today," adding that the US was "losing credibility" by continuing its support of its long-time ally.
"It is loud and clear from everybody in Egypt that Mubarak has to leave today," ElBaradei said in the interview. "He needs to leave today ... to be followed by a smooth transition [to] a national unity government to be followed by all the measures set in place for a free and fair election."
International voices grow louder
The US has called for an "orderly transition" in Egypt, but has stopped short of calling on Mubarak to step down. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Mubarak must do more to further political reform - beyond having already removed his cabinet and appointed a new prime minister and first-ever vice president.
"That is the beginning, the bare beginning of what needs to happen, which is a process that leads to the kind of concrete steps to achieve democratic and economic reform that we've been urging," she told ABC News.
Egyptians have defied several nationwide curfews
"We're trying to promote an orderly transition and change that will respond to the legitimate grievances of the Egyptian people, which the protests are all about," she told CBS.
"We are urging the Mubarak government, which is still in power, we are urging the military, which is a very respected institution in Egypt, to do what is necessary to facilitate that kind of orderly transition."
Meanwhile, the international community has increased pressure on Mubarak to deliver on his promises for reform.
Germany stands for democracy
German Chancellor Angela Merkel telephoned Mubarak late Sunday, urging the president to ensure security forces refrained from using violence against protesters.
She also asked Mubarak to guarantee the freedom of information following moves by the Egyptian government to cut internet feeds and shut down Al Jazeera.
On Sunday, German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle assured anti-government protesters in Egypt that Germany was on their side.
"The German government stands by those who are calling for democracy and civil and human rights," he said in Berlin before flying to Tel Aviv for talks with the Israeli government.
"We still don't know which way political developments in Egypt will go," he continued. "But one thing we do know is that nothing can return to the order of the day; nothing will be as it once was."
Meanwhile, international tourists fled the country. By Sunday, the US, Iraq, Turkey, India, Greece, Canada and Saudi Arabia had all sent planes to fly their citizens out of Egypt or were making plans to do so.
Britain, France, China, Australia, Argentina and the Nordic countries were among the countries that placed travel advisories on Egypt.
Author: Darren Mara, David Levitz (AFP, Reuters, dpa)
Editor: Kyle James