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Mubarak's moves fail to quell protests in Eqypt

With protests raging, Egypt's president named his intelligence chief Saturday as his first vice president, setting the stage for a successor as chaos engulfed the capital. Soldiers stood by -- a few even joining the demonstrators -- and the death toll from five days of anti-government fury rose sharply to 74.

Saturday's fast-moving developments across the north African nation marked a sharp turning point in President Hosni Mubarak's three-decade rule of Egypt.

Residents and shopkeepers in affluent neighborhoods boarded up their houses and stores against looters, who roamed the streets with knives and sticks, stealing what they could and destroying cars, windows and street signs. Gunfire rang out in some neighborhoods.

Looters made off with television sets, electronics and furniture from a mall along the Nile. In Giza on the other side of the city, young men could be seen carting away bottles of alcohol, chairs, sofas and tables from casinos and night clubs and packing them into their rickshaws.

Tanks and armored personnel carriers fanned out across the city of18 million, guarding key government buildings, and major tourist and archaeological sites.

Among those singled out for special protection was the Egyptian Museum, home to some of the country's most treasured antiquities, and the Cabinet building. The military closed the pyramids on the outskirts of Cairo -- Egypt's premier tourist site.

Would-be looters broke into the famed Egyptian Museum, ripping the heads off two mummies and damaging about 10 small artifacts before being caught and detained by soldiers, Egypt's antiquities chief said.

But soldiers made no moves against protesters, even after a curfew came and went and the crowds swelled in the streets, demanding an end to Mubarak's rule and no handoff to the son he had been grooming to succeed him.

"This is the revolution of people of all walks of life," read black graffiti scrolled on one army tank in Tahrir Square. "Mubarak, take your son and leave," it said.

For a second night, thousands of protesters defied the curfew, standing their ground in the main Tahrir Square in a resounding rejection of Mubarak's attempt to hang onto power with promises of reform and a new government.

Police protecting the Interior Ministry near the site opened fire at a funeral procession for a dead protester, possibly because it came too close to the force. Clashes broke out, and at least two people were killed.

Rafaat Mubarak, a 43-year-old teacher, said the appointment of Omar Suleiman, the president's intelligence chief and longtime confidant, as vice president did not satisfy the protesters.

"This is all nonsense. They will not fool us anymore. We want the head of the snake," he said in the Mediterranean port city of Alexandria. "If he is appointed by Mubarak, then he is just one more member of the gang. We are not speaking about a branch in a tree; we are talking about the roots."

The crackdown on protesters has drawn harsh criticism from the Obama administration and even a threat Friday to reduce a $1.5 billion foreign aid program if Washington's most important Arab ally escalates the use of force.

Thousands of passengers were stranded at Cairo's airport as flights were canceled or delayed, preventing them from leaving because of a government-imposed curfew. Several Arab nations, meanwhile, moved to evacuate their citizens.

The cancellations of flights and the arrival of several largely empty aircraft appeared to herald an ominous erosion of key tourism revenue.

The protesters united in one overarching demand -- Mubarak and his family must go. The movement culminates years of simmering frustration over a government considered corrupt, heavy-handed and neglectful of poverty.

Egyptians were emboldened by the uprising in Tunisia -- another North African Arab nation -- and further buoyed by their success in defying the ban on gatherings.

At the end of a long day of rioting and mass demonstrations Friday, Mubarak fired his Cabinet and promised reforms. But the demonstrators returned in force Saturday to demand a complete change of regime.

The president appeared to have been preparing his son Gamal to succeed him, possibly as soon as presidential elections planned for later this year. But significant public opposition arose to the hereditary succession.

The appointment of Suleiman, 74, answers one of the most intriguing and enduring political questions in Egypt: Who will succeed 82-year-old Mubarak?

Mubarak appointed Suleiman shortly after the United States said he needed to take concrete action to achieve "real reform." Suleiman is well-known and respected by American officials, and has traveled to Washington many times.

As the army presence expanded Saturday in Cairo, police largely disappeared from the streets -- possibly because their presence seemed only to fuel protesters' anger. Egyptian police are hated for their brutality.

On Friday, 17 police stations throughout Cairo were torched, with protesters stealing firearms and ammunition, and freeing some jailed suspects. They also burned dozens of police trucks in Cairo, Alexandria and Suez. On Saturday, protesters besieged a police station in the Giza neighborhood of Cairo, looted and pulled down Egyptian flags, then burned the building to the ground.

Nineteen private jets carrying families of wealthy Egyptian businessmen with ties to the Mubarak family left Cairo late Saturday, most of them bound for Dubai, an airport official said.

"There is nothing short of Mubarak leaving power that will satisfy the people," Mohamed ElBaradei, the country's leading pro-reform activist told the Associated Press on Saturday.

In other developments:

* The Egyptian protesters were joined Saturday by relatives and supporters at protests in major American cities.

"Mubarak will go. If not today, then tomorrow," Magdy Al-Abady, 39, of Chicago, said during a demonstration downtown in front of the Egyptian consulate's office.

Protesters also gathered outside the United Nations complex in New York City, filled the street in front of the Egyptian Embassy in Washington and marched through downtown San Francisco to show solidarity with the uprising. Demonstrations also were held in other cities, including Seattle and Los Angeles.

* In Washington, President Obama issued a plea for restraint in Egypt after meeting with national security aides to assess the Cairo government's response to the widespread protests.

A White House statement said Obama "reiterated our focus on opposing violence and calling for restraint, supporting universal rights, and supporting concrete steps that advance political reform within Egypt."

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