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Protests in Cairo spill into third day, as death toll mounts

Over 30 people have died in the ongoing clashes between police and demonstrators in Cairo's Tahrir Square. The controversial military government has vowed the unrest will not delay upcoming elections.

Police and protesters face off in Tahrir Square

Police entered the square in an attempt to evict protesters

The death toll from three days of clashes between police and demonstrators in Egypt climbed to over 30 on Monday, according to morgue officials.

Since Saturday, protesters have once again been gathering in Cairo's symbolic Tahrir Square, demanding a full handover of power from the country's ruling military government.

Police have used tear gas and batons against protesters in and around the square, the epicenter of the uprising that toppled authoritarian leader Hosni Mubarak.

Protesters advancing on the nearby headquarters of the Interior Ministry responded by throwing rocks at security forces. There were reports of rubber bullets being fired, while the government has denied allegations that live rounds of ammunition were used.

Medical sources operating around Cairo's central Tahrir Square have suggested that four of the victims were shot dead, with three more dying of asphyxiation from tear gas.

German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle

Westerwelle condemned the violence and called for calm

On Monday, Germany urged both sides to halt the lethal violence. "The use of force and its consequences, that is the high number of dead and even more injured, are very disturbing," said a spokesman for Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle.

The minister urged all sides to "cease the violence immediately and not to divert from the path of democracy."

Commitment to elections

The interim military leadership convened for a special meeting on Sunday to discuss the violence.

"The government is committed to holding elections on time," the cabinet said in a statement read out on state television, referring to planned parliamentary elections set to start on November 28.

The cabinet also described the clashes as "deliberately fueled tension [that] aims at delaying or cancelling the elections to prevent the rebuilding of state institutions."

Police in Cairo

Protesters were met with rubber bullets and tear gas

Most of the protesters, however, say they have taken to the streets as a result of the interim government's slow progress in making room for an elected government. This month's polls would only be the first step on the road to a new constitution and president in Egypt, a process that's likely to run well into next year.

Egypt's current government took power after President Hosni Mubarak was ousted in February.

The cabinet statement also said security officers had not used live ammunition against protesters and thanked them for using "self-restraint in dealing with the events."

Worst clashes in months

On Saturday, some 5,000 protesters converged on the square, prompting the worst clashes to be seen in Egypt in months.

In response, the government issued a warning and appealed for calm. It said "the circumstances [that led to] the incidents" were being investigated and the results would be "presented to the people in a transparent and clear way within a few days."

The key liberal opposition April 6 movement has condemned the police action. "We reject the savagery shown by police in Tahrir Square and their systematic violence against peaceful protesters," said spokesman Tareq al-Khuli.

Election overshadowed

Egyptians set off fireworks as they celebrate after President Hosni Mubarak resigned

Tahrir Square was the focal point of the February uprising

A three-stage election process is due to begin on November 28, but the poll has been overshadowed by a dispute over a draft constitution that could leave the army free from civilian control.

Support for Egypt's interim military rulers, which took power on a temporary basis after the toppling of Mubarak, has ebbed amid suspicion that they aim to wield power in any future government.

Analysts claim Islamists could win some 40 percent of parliamentary seats, a large portion going to the group known as the Muslim Brotherhood.

Author: Mark Hallam, Richard Connor, Joanna Impey (AFP, AP, dpa, Reuters)
Editor: Martin Kuebler

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