As tens of thousands of Egyptian protesters defy curfews and the army to press for the ouster of long-term President Hosni Mubarak, the US says Egypt will never be the same.
Chanting demonstrators – men, women and children – filled the streets of Cairo on Sunday demanding Mr Mubarak go now instead of standing down at upcoming elections, and mourning the estimated 300 people who have died two weeks of upheval that has shaken the Arab world and wrecked the country’s economy.
“Egypt is not going to go back to what it was”, US President Barack Obama said.
Mr Mubarak has said he wants to go now, but fears chaos if he leaves immediately.
Analysts say a major concern is there is no clear alternative, inclduing the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood and Nobel laureate Mohammed ElBaradei.
The New York Times has reported US officials have been negotiating with Egyptian leaders for a peaceful transition to a triumvirate of Vice President Omar Suleiman, the defence minister Field Marshal Mohamed Tantawi and the head of the military Lieutenant- General Sami Enan to rewrite the constitution before elections scheduled for September.
Our correspondent in Cairo, Anne Barker, reports even Hosni Mubarak’s son Gamal, once widely tipped to take over, has withdrawn his support for the increasingly isolated president.
“He has had his chance … now it’s too late,” one protestor said. “Now he has to leave.”
Protestors have vowed to remain on the streets, centred around Tahir Square, until Hosni Mubarak steps down.
He has been widely accused of human rights abuses in his three-decade rule and authorities have been condemned for harassing journalists and protestors during the demonstrations.
The turmoil is costing Egypt an estimated $US300 million a day and has forced 160,000 tourists to flee, some on evacuation flights ordered by their governments.
It has also sparked worldwide protests outside Egyptian diplomatic missions demanding Mr Mubarak’s departure.