Return to Transcripts main page


Egypt Uprising

Aired January 30, 2011 - 21:00   ET



MOHAMED ELBARADEI, NOBEL LAUREATE: People have been saying -- or demonstrating for his -- for him to leave. Today the demonstration is that he should be put to trial. If he wants to save his skin, if he has an iota of patriotism, I would advise him to leave today and save the country.


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: And good evening, everyone. We are live in Cairo tonight. Day six of the uprising here is over. A new day has begun, day seven. In just a few hours, dawn will break over the city of Cairo and you are watching history unfold.

The streets around us right now are empty except for large numbers of Egyptian soldiers who have occupied key points setting up road blocks along with civilian militias who have armed themselves with knives and clubs to try to prevent any looters from entering their neighborhoods.

We have seen a dramatic day on Sunday and again no one knows what the next few hours will bring. You heard from Mohamed ElBaradei, the Nobel Laureate there who was talking to Fareed Zakaria a short time ago. He appeared tonight at Liberation Square, Tahrir Square, spoke to the crowd. We'll show you what that was like. We were there. We witnessed it ourselves. We'll show you what it was like in just a few moments.

What they are demanding is nothing less than the removal of President Mubarak from Egypt. That has not happened. Mubarak is still in power. He's made some changes to his government, but the changes have not satisfied the protesters in the streets. And despite curfews, a curfew that began on Sunday at 4:00 p.m. in the afternoon and tomorrow has been extended to begin at 3:00 p.m., despite that 4:00 p.m. curfew on Sunday, protesters came out in defiance and stayed out well past the curfew chanting, yelling for the removal of President Mubarak.

The United States government has now announced they are going to start to voluntarily evacuate American citizens who want to. They're going to start offering charter flights on Monday to points in Europe. Those charter flights, the people who take them will have to reimburse the U.S. government. A number of Americans in various cities, not only here in Cairo, but in Luxor, Alexandria and elsewhere, have felt trapped.

It is very difficult at times to get out. A number of commercial flights have been canceled. So the U.S. government, like some other governments around the world, is going to start to offer charter flights. Details on that are still sketchy.

But the story today was the protests that keep -- that continue to go especially in Liberation Square. We were there several hours after the curfew had started. Here's what we saw.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE (voice-over): Sunday night, the sixth day of protests in Liberation Square, was once again filled.

COOPER(on camera): They're calling for freedom and change and justice. Those are the words you hear a lot. And they're saying that their demand haven't changed, they want Mubarak out.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (voice-over): Defying Mubarak, defying the curfew, thousands showed up shouting into the night.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mubarak, get out! This is our home!

COOPER (on camera): What's so remarkable about this is, for those of us who have reported from Egypt over the years, is before any time you brought out a camera, instantly police would be all over you stopping you from shooting, checking your papers.

We have a camera out, nobody's stopping us. And people are voicing their opinion.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (voice-over): There is no one organizer of these protests but tonight Mohamed ElBaradei showed up to try to talk to the crowd.

COOPER (on camera): ElBaradei is right over there. The crowd -- everybody wants to get a look at him, wants to hear anything he might have to say.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (voice-over): The crowds rush forward and ElBaradei spoke briefly through a bull horn.

ELBARADEI (through translator): Today you are an Egyptian demanding your rights and freedom and what we started can never be pushed back.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: His words were eloquent but few heard what he said. The noise in the square was simply too great.

COOPER (on camera): What's your message to President Mubarak? What is your message to President Mubarak?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He should leave tonight.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (voice-over): Soldiers on tanks watched and waited. There were no police to be seen in the square on this night.

COOPER: Are you scared to be here?

No, not scared. (INAUDIBLE). So who I'm scared of?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (voice-over): There's no telling how much longer this can go on for. Six days into the crisis, and there is still no clear way for it to come to an end.


COOPER (on camera): There was some shooting outside the Egyptian museum, a soldier shooting into the air trying to disperse some demonstrators who had appeared. That occurred shortly after that video was shot earlier this evening. We have full coverage over the next two hours.

Wolf Blitzer is going to be joining us from Washington, D.C. covering all the angles from there. Isha Sesay will join us from Atlanta. We also have our correspondent Ben Wedeman here in Cairo who has been covering this story from the beginning like nobody else. Ivan Watson is here as well and Nic Robertson is in Alexandria. We're going to be bringing you what they have seen over the last 24 hours throughout this next two hours tonight.

Ivan Watson was in that same square earlier in the day when the curfew came into effect and if you thought people might leave as soon as that curfew started at 4:00 p.m., well, that certainly didn't happen. Here's what Ivan saw.


IVAN WATSON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: This is an unmistakable show of military force. Fighter jets flying low over Cairo's Tahrir square, Liberation Square. This has been a symbol of defiance for days now against the Mubarak presidency. And the people here are still chanting. Curfew was supposed to have begun minutes ago but they're refusing to disperse. I've been talking with this professor. What do you think when you see these fighter jets overhead?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, we are not going to be, as I said, we're not going to be intimidated by all of this. This is a sign of weakness. It is not signs of change. If he's strong enough, he would face the people, he would change this institution, he would drop down the assembly which have been --

WATSON: You think the fighter jets are a warning?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, no, no. As you can see, the people here are gathering more and more. It makes them stronger and stronger. These people are strong. Because they are strong from the heart. Their spirit is strong. They are strong by holding to each other, by helping each other out and that's the spirit of the Egyptian that has been under this regime for about 30 years. We already getting our --


WATSON: So there you hear it. You here it there. Defiance, ongoing, from people here, demonstrators who have gathered here despite a curfew that the outgoing defense minister called for on state television saying, please adhere to a curfew that is supposed to have started moments ago and continue until 8:00 in the morning. Ivan Watson, CNN, Cairo.


COOPER: And Ivan joins me now. It was interesting to hear those fighter jets go over. If it was meant to cow people, if it was meant to scare them, it didn't seem to have that effect.

WATSON: No, just the opposite. And it was interesting also that everybody interpreted that as a kind of warning, as a form of intimidation and they refused to follow that, if anything, the chanting accelerated at that moment.

COOPER: There are, as we've said, soldiers all over the streets and there is this really interesting relationship between the Egyptian people and the soldiers. I mean, they are surrounding the tanks, talking with them, giving them food, giving them tea, in many cases I've seen singing as well.

WATSON: That's right. It looks like they're wooing them. They want to keep them on their side. And as one Egyptian demonstrator put it, the soldiers -- the Egyptian army are the people. Every Egyptian family has a member within the military so they feel much more linked to it than they do to the police which again we're not really seeing out on these streets right now.

COOPER: And what the Egyptian military decides to do and is willing do over the next several days will be a critical component of all of this. We have now heard reports though, according to the government, that police are going to start coming back on to the streets on Monday. If that is in fact true, that would be of concern to some of the demonstrators.

WATSON: Absolutely. And we have seen signs that perhaps some of them are out there in plain clothes perhaps and operating some of the demonstrators concerned that there may be instigators in those crowds that we're seeing trying to rile up the crowd sometimes.

I spoke with a journalist who was shot with these pellet guns that we've seen, this kind of buckshot that's spraying out at one of the police stations. And they show these welts, you'll see them on some of the demonstrators when they get too close. Those are still being fired. People are still getting injured with those types of munitions that seem to be owned carried by the security forces.

COOPER: And we saw some -- one squad of police out today, who stopped us, checked our equipment and asked us where we were going. But again, you don't see them at this point at least visibly in plain clothes.

WATSON: You do not. And what is filling the vacuum which is remarkable are these citizen defense squads where, you know, I spoke with one guy who's an account manager for a software company normally. And now he's out there with the ax and he's been making Molotov cocktails with his friends in his neighborhood just to protect their streets.

COOPER: And it's literally every corner. I mean, driving in from the airport today we were stopped, block after block after block. And had to have the same conversations with people. And generally once they realized, you know, we're here to report or we're not burglars , we're not looters, they were happy and, you know, cordial. But it is somewhat tense. You see these guys who are carrying around baseball bats. We saw one with a club with a knife that had been put half-way through the wood so it was basically like a giant cudgel.

WATSON: These men are not trained warriors. They're people with day jobs who are trying to protect their families and their homes right now. And they're very worried that this has unleashed just a wave of criminality and they have nobody else to turn to. And many of them actually blame Hosni Mubarak for this situation. They accuse him of deliberately creating a sense of anarchy. And they're trying to fill in the gaps right now and they're terribly afraid.

COOPER: Right. And they're saying the reason that he would do that, the belief is that if he creates a sense of anarchy, then he can say that he is still needed in order to restore calm.

WATSON: That's definitely a version -- an interpretation we've been hearing. And some of them even argue this is a form of punishment. Hey, we stood up for our rights. We're asking for the right to choose our own government and he's punishing us and scaring us with what could come next.

COOPER: As we said, we're going to have coverage over these next two hours from all our correspondents. We'll have more with Ivan Watson and Ben Wedeman and Nic Robertson who's in Alexandria who had a really interesting day. We'll show you his report coming up. Also Wolf Blitzer in Washington. Right now, let's go to Isha Sesay is in Atlanta -- Isha.

ISHA SESAY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Thanks, Anderson. Well, one week ago right now, it might have seemed impossible to imagine this level of turmoil in Egypt. But on closer examination, the seeds of dissent had been planted just waiting to erupt.

CNN's Suzanne Malveaux joins me now to tell us when all this started and where. And, Suzanne, that's the thing, people around the world shocked by what they're seeing but you could easily trace the roots of this.

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: You know, it's funny, because we all expressed a great deal of surprise when we saw Egypt erupt. But really when you take a look at it, there were some signs. The last four weeks or so, within four weeks, you had three different Muslim countries that were in revolt. And essentially that set up the perfect storm.


MALVEAUX (voice-over): Starting with Tunisia where an unemployed graduate student sets himself on fire after a city inspector confiscates his unlicensed fruit cart and then allegedly slaps him. His death sparks unprecedented fury and protests against the government forcing Tunisia's long-time president to flee.

In Algeria, riots break out over rising food prices and a housing crisis. In Yemen, students take to the streets. Emboldened by its neighbors in the region, on Tuesday, Egypt erupts. Angered by the alleged corruption, police brutality and lack of reforms in their own country, thousands pour into the streets demanding Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak, who's held power for nearly 30 years, resign. Protesters are met with teargas and violence. The next day the violence escalates. As Egyptian security forces turn water cannons and teargas on the growing angry crowds. The Egyptian military urges calm.

Social media sites like Facebook and Twitter report that they are being blocked by the government. Thursday, a leading Egyptian opposition figure, Mohamed ElBaradei, returns home from Europe vowing to back the protesters. The Egyptian government then arrests a prominent leader of the country's largest opposition group, the Muslim Brotherhood. The Obama administration is alarmed by the growing intensity of the crisis but reacts with caution.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I want to be very clear in calling upon the Egyptian authorities to refrain from any violence against peaceful protesters.


MALVEAUX: As the unrest spreads beyond Cairo in the days to come, protesters take to the streets in Qatar and Jordan to show demonstrators their support. Mubarak goes on national television to tell Egyptians his government will resign, but he will stay in power. His offer does not quell the angry and growing crowds.

A thousand inmates break out of a prison outside Cairo. Looters ransack prison buildings and businesses and vandals tear off the heads of mummies at the Egyptian museum. Journalists report a dangerous power vacuum.

BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: The army is sort of controlling the streets. Politically, there is a complete vacuum.


SESAY: A fascinating look at the roots of all of this, Suzanne. I mean, there are those who feel the speed with which these protests erupted caught the Obama administration by surprise and somewhat flat footed. You worked in the White House for many, many years. What's your assessment?

MALVEAUX: Covering the White House, the Obama and the Bush administrations, really had very similar situations to deal with. Mubarak is not a perfect ally, but he certainly was a reliable one. And so, you have President Obama on the one hand threatening to pull aid from one of its closest allies. At the same time, kind of worried, frustrated that other allies -- Egyptian -- Arab allies are going to see that as a threat, perhaps throwing Mubarak under the bus. So that's why they're being somewhat cautious about this.

The other thing, too, under the Bush administration, I had a chance to visit Cairo with the former first lady Laura Bush. She had the same situation, the same challenge. People asked her the same question, do you support the Muslim Brotherhood? Do you support this opposition party? And she had to say, yes. You know, Mubarak is a reliable ally, but she visited with those opposition leaders to show that they are open to the possibility of greater democracy in that country.

SESAY: Suzanne, we appreciate the analysis. And I want to toss it back to Wolf now. And Suzanne really bringing out the point that the U.S. finds itself walking a very, very fine tight rope -- Wolf.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Stakes certainly are enormous right now. The big focus, though, the rattled nerves throughout the Middle East, Isha. Regional leaders are anxiously watching what happens in Egypt and wondering if the rage will spread to their countries.

Marwan Muasher is here with me. He's a former Jordanian foreign minister, deputy prime minister. He is now the vice president for studies at the Carnegie Endowment. Is it too little, too late for President Mubarak right now?

MARWAN MUASHER, FORMER JORDANIAN FOREIGN MINISTER: I think so. I mean, whether President Mubarak leaves tomorrow or in a few weeks' time, I think the Mubarak regime is over and I think people are starting now to talk about the transition hopefully to a pluralistic democracy.

BLITZER: Would it be better if he left right away? Because there is a lot of concern that the longer he stays, the more difficult it will become for everyone.

MUASHER: Well, this is something I guess the Egyptians will have to decide, but I think that he needs to understand and the people around him need to understand that this is a new era, this is a new game. I think it is better for him to leave.

BLITZER: What should friends of Egypt be doing like the United States right now? Should the president of the United States, for example, pick up the phone and say to President Mubarak, it's over, you better step down?

MUASHER: Well, I think -- I think, you know, whereas the president might not be able to do exactly so, I think what the U.S. needs to do with Egypt, with other countries of the region is to insist on a serious reform process. Not programs as we have seen before designed to appease the West or to appease their own publics. But a serious -- a gradual but serious reform process. Certainly in Egypt we should see, I think, a national unity government that includes the Muslim Brotherhood, a new election law that would open up the political process. A new presidential law constitution that would allow people to, you know, run for the presidency without the support of the national party.

BLITZER: You're a former Jordanian deputy prime minister and foreign minister. How worried are you that this unrest that's now in Egypt, happened in Tunisia, could spread to Jordan?

MUASHER: I think it is very worrisome to spread to Jordan or to other countries of the region. I think business as usual is simply not sustainable. We have a political elite in the Arab world, not just in Jordan, but throughout the Arab world, that has argued for decades that reform should take place at the very slow pace, that the street is not revolting, it is not protesting. That there are peculiarities in each country that, you know, allow that country not to reform.

That, of course, has all been undermined with this. There is certainly now a realization, I hope, that business as usual is not sustainable, one. Two, that the reform process must be sustained and serious and not just ad hoc or a short-term reaction to events. It must be carried over a long period of time and the public needs to be convinced that it is serious this time, through, as I said, the inclusion of all political forces in the country. And that includes the Muslim Brotherhood who, both in Egypt and Jordan, have been peaceful and trying to put forward their views. I disagree with a lot of them, but at least they put them through through peaceful means.

BLITZER: All right. Marwan Muasher, thanks very much for your insight.

MUASHER: Thank you.

BLITZER: Anderson, lot's going on and you just heard the former Jordanian foreign minister expressed concern that what's happening in Egypt right now could, in fact, spread to Jordan.

COOPER: And that's why it's so significant. We heard from Mohamed ElBaradei today on Fareed Zakaria show, and we're going to talk to him also tomorrow. Essentially saying that he has been in communication with those who have been organizing some of the protests and that they have talked about the need to form some sort of national unity government if and when President Mubarak does step down. But of course that -- there is no sign of that happening any time soon.

We're going to have a lot more from the region. We're going to talk to all of our correspondents.

Coming up next is Nic Robertson, who's had a fascinating 24 hours in the city of Alexandria to our north. We'll have his report coming up.


NIC ROBERTSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It's already a couple of hours past the curfew. It is dark and the men on the streets here are now guarding the streets. They've got sticks in their hands.



COOPER: Nic Robertson has been reporting for the last several days from the city of Alexandria which is to the north of Cairo, along the coast. A very dramatic day in Alexandria. Nic Robertson filed this report earlier.


ROBERTSON: With the demonstrations getting much closer to one of the army posts and the gunfire that we can hear rocketing through the air, the demonstrators say that's the army firing to warn them to stay away. But it's long -- more gunshots -- it's long after curfew right now.

And if the government was controlling the situation -- trace of fire flying in the air -- these people wouldn't be out on the streets if the government was in control. Right now, they're continuing that demand for Hosni Mubarak to step down. And the demand we've seen earlier in the day as well this one. Foreign governments stop this hypocrisy and stand for Egyptian freedom.

What people are saying and they've been telling us this all day, they are frustrated with the United States, frustrated with Britain. They've said they'll demonstrate and continue their demonstrations through the night. And this is exactly what we can see happening.

Those shots we saw being fired over the crowd before from the army, what do you -- what does that mean?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That is quite a clear message to the Egyptian people and that is a clear sign that the military is siding up with the people and we're actually waiting for the military to take a more serious step at this point to say to the president, we're not covering you anymore.

ROBERTSON: And that's more gunshots there.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes. That is basically either cheering or just basically saying to their commands that we're doing our jobs. But what is practically happening on the grounds, they are not apprehending any demonstrations. They are siding with the people and we've seen it cross in local territories as well, in inner city, more and more, aside from highways, et cetera.

So it's a clear message that the military is not doing what the regime is asking to do by preventing demonstrations and enforcing curfews, et cetera.


COOPER: And Nic Robertson joins me now live from Alexandria. Nic, what kind of an impact does that kind of shooting have on the protesters? ROBERTSON: It seems to have no impact on them at all. Those trace rounds (ph) were sort of flying way high over their heads. But we saw in the crowds there, there were children, young babes in arms being carried by families. They're simply not deterred by it. It seems that they, as they keep telling us, are going to keep pushing ahead with those demands regardless -- Anderson.

COOPER: We're going to have more from Nic Robertson over the next hour and half of our live coverage from Cairo and from all points around Egypt. Let's go back to Isha in Atlanta.

SESAY: Thanks, Anderson. Well, Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak presents western nations with a dilemma, both political and moral. On the one hand, he's seen as an essential ally in the fight against terrorism and Israel-Palestinian peace process.

On the other, his autocratic rule is seen as contradicting Democratic principles. Michael Holmes takes a closer look at the man who has ruled Egypt with an iron hand for the past three decades.


MICHAEL HOLMES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: To understand Hosni Mubarak, you have to start here with his predecessor, Anwar Sadat, who in 1979 signed the Camp David Peace Treaty with Israel. That handshake on the White House lawn enraged Muslim radicals who believed Sadat had sold out Arab interests across the region.

In protests, many even (INAUDIBLE) Arab governments broke diplomatic relations with Egypt. Two and a half years later, while President Sadat was reviewing a military parade with then-Vice President Hosni Mubarak sitting next to him, Muslim radicals in the army had their revenge.

Sadat was assassinated. Mubarak was wounded but survived to be sworn in as president. That was October 1981. Hosni Mubarak has been the Egyptian president ever since and until this week had never had a vice president. When he came to power, Egypt was the pariah of the Arab world for signing that peace deal with Israel. Mubarak went on the diplomatic offensive quickly improving relations with Arab neighbors.


PRESIDENT HOSNI MUBARAK, EGYPT: To consider peace is not something impossible. It is a gift to the human being.


HOLMES: For 30 years, Mubarak has been a regular guest of American presidents. He's been an ally of the west in efforts to contain al- Qaeda, and Mubarak collaborated in repeated U.S. efforts to broker peace deals between Israel and the Palestinians. Here with President Ronald Reagan.


MUBARAK: The exercise of the right to self-determination cannot be denied to the Palestinian people.


HOLMES: Self-determination back home in Egypt though was another matter. Mubarak's presidency was re-affirmed three times in national voting, but by law, no one else was allowed on the ballot.

After U.S. pressure, a supposedly open election was held in 2005, but international observers complained the balloting was rigged. After contesting the election results, the number two vote getter was arrested, charged with forgery and sentenced to five years hard labor. That punishment earned the Mubarak government a strong rebuke from the White House. The alternative Mubarak's government hinted was chaos and Egypt's painful history of terror attacks meant little was left to the imagination.

From Luxor in 1997, when more than 60 people, mostly tourists, were slaughtered to the resort of Sharm el-Sheikh in 2005 where 88 people were killed. Like a cat, Mubarak seems to have had nine lives. He survived multiple assassination attempts, including an attack by Islamic extremists on his motorcade during a 1995 visit to Ethiopia.

Still, Mubarak is now 82 and in recent years his health has appeared to falter. When Mubarak came to power in 1981, he inherited a country torn apart by economic and political differences. Islamic idealists and radicals wanted a Muslim state. Secular moderates wanted a western style democracy.

After the fall of Saddam Hussein in Iraq, U.S. pressure forced Mubarak into grudging change. More freedom of expression, newspapers allowed to publish articles critical of the government. And economic reforms that brought strong economic growth. But this interview from 1981 may offer a hint at Mubarak's cautious approach to change.


MUBARAK: Look what happened in Venezuela, I think? In Morocco. In Algiers. In Tunisia. They tried to make tough reforms. People who are human beings, they didn't accept it. Or they couldn't accept it.



SESAY: And Michael joins me now to talk a little bit more about all of this. Michael, let's dig a little bit deeper. Looking at Mubarak, the man and his past actions, what's your sense in terms of clues of what he may do next?

HOLMES: You know, it seemed obvious, Isha, that early on in what's been going on on the streets there that there was a complacency among the regime that it would never go this far this fast. And they were caught off guard. There's certainly no guarantee there is not going to be a massive clamp-down yet. We have yet to see that. But he may be able to make enough promises, placate people enough to get to those presidential elections that are meant to be taking in September and maybe make them free a bit (ph).

SESAY: Let's talk about the military and the relationship of the military. They seem to be key in all of this.

HOLMES: Yes, and that evidenced by the appointment of the vice president, his first, and prime minister. Both of them are of the military. He himself is of the military. Make no mistake that the military is running things, both in a public sense and behind the scenes.

And what happens on the streets, what happens politically is going to come down to the military as well.

SESAY: Michael, great analysis. We appreciate it.

And, Wolf, to toss it back to you -- all eyes on the military and what they may or may not do next, of course.

BLITZER: It's a critical factor to be sure, Isha.

Washington is, to say the least, walking a diplomatic tight rope right now as it tries to respond to the crisis in Egypt. Appearing Sunday on CNN's "STATE OF THE UNION," Secretary of State Hillary Clinton chose her words carefully when she answered a very pointed question from our own Candy Crowley.


CANDY CROWLEY, HOST, "STATE OF THE UNION": If you are watching, we are seeing signs that say, "U.S., stop backing Mubarak." What side is the U.S. on, Mubarak or the people in the streets?

HILLARY CLINTON, SECRETARY OF STATE: Well, there's another choice. It's the Egyptian people. We are on the side, as we have been for more than 30 years, of a democratic Egypt that provides both political and economic rights to its people, that respects the universal human rights of all Egyptians.


BLITZER: There are some very good reasons for Washington to be treading very carefully right now in the face of the Egyptian turmoil. The outcome, whatever it turns out to be, will have major ramifications for U.S. dealings with the ever volatile Middle East. We'll get some expert advice on what will happen when we return.



BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We've also been clear that there must be reform, political --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mubarak destroyed our country. Thirty years, he destroyed our country.

OBAMA: -- social --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Muslim and Christian, we are all one country.

OBAMA: -- and greater economic opportunity.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: People are starving, there's no minimum wage. What else do you need?


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: We head a lot today from protesters. They want to hear more from the United States, more support for the people in the streets. As we have been talking about now for several days, the U.S. is walking a very fine line here. They've supported -- U.S. and various administrations have supported the government here for the 30 years that they have been in power. A lot of questions about what tact the U.S. will take in the coming days depending on what happens on the streets here.

We have seen in the last 24 hours continued demonstrations. It's 4:30 or so a.m. right now here. Curfew is in effect. Streets are pretty calm in the downtown part of Cairo. But most of the demonstrations don't really start to kick up until after afternoon -- after afternoon prayers later on in the afternoon.

Tomorrow, on Monday, they've actually now extended the curfew. Rather than starting at 4:00 in the afternoon, it's now going to start at 3:00 in the afternoon, a sign perhaps that they are not pleased with the large numbers of people who are, frankly, just defying the curfew, not really paying attention to it because many of these demonstrations that we've been seeing go well into the night.

Also, the U.S. is now going to be starting to evacuate, voluntarily evacuate, American citizens who want to get out, families of diplomats, tourists who are here and residents who are stuck here. They will be giving them charter flights, making charter flights available from Cairo and other cities to points in Europe and from there, people will have to figure out their own travel beyond Europe and reimburse the United States for that travel.

But it's very much the early hours on that. And details are still sketchy. We've got a lot to cover still.

Let's go back to Wolf in government.

BLITZER: Anderson, right now, the U.S. government is walking a very, very fine diplomatic line with Egypt. Cairo certainly a long-time ally, but the fallout from unrest there could have a lasting impact on Washington's relationship with Egypt and indeed the rest of the region.

Let's bring in CNN's national security contributor, Fran Townsend, and the columnist, Mona Eltahawy.

Fran, how worried should we be right now for the safety and the security of American citizens in Egypt? FRAN TOWNSEND, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY CONTRIBUTOR: Well, Wolf, because the curfew is not being enforced by the Egyptian military, as you've seen in the clips provided by Nic Robertson and Anderson, there are large demonstrations, they are entirely sort of unmanaged from a security standpoint.

Normally, you would -- you'd have officials out there at least making sure they were safe. And you don't have any of that. And so, you know, you worry about a stampede, a rush, if there was a panic. There's all sorts of things.

And so, the U.S. government is right to provide this. They're a little slow to be getting to this now. You would have thought this would have happened earlier on the weekend after the president spoke on Friday. But they're right to be doing it now.

And as Anderson points out, people will have to reimburse the U.S. government for this travel and then make their own way home from Europe.

BLITZER: Mona, I haven't seen a whole lot of anti-American statements coming out of the protesters on the streets of Cairo or Alexandria. But there is fear that the longer this goes on, the more anti-American it could become. Is that a real fear?

MONA ELTAHAWY, COLUMNIST, ASHARQ AL-AWSAT: Wolf, I have to stress, this revolution in the making in Egypt has nothing to do with America, and American citizens in Egypt have absolutely nothing to worry about. The protesters in the streets of Cairo, the tens of thousands who are staging an uprising against Mubarak, our dictator of 30 years, have been peaceful. The only violence that we've been hearing from or hearing of has come from thugs that have been shown to belong to the Mubarak regime.

No foreign citizen in Egypt has been targeted in any way. I urge you to look at the positive aspect of what's going on. Americans in Egypt will tell you what's going on. Egypt is going through a historical moment.

If there are no troops or if there are no police forces out there on the street, that is solely the responsibility of the Mubarak regime. If anybody's hurt, Egyptian or foreign, that is the responsibility of the Mubarak regime.

These are peaceful -- this is a peaceful uprising that wants freedom and dignity for Egyptians and it does not target any country. It wants freedom for Egyptian. This is an internal Egyptian issue.

BLITZER: Mona, who are these thugs who are ransacking shopping centers, going through the Cairo museum, looting homes. Who are these people?

ELTAHAWY: Well, I know from Egyptians that I'm in touch with in Egypt that the police force, Mubarak's security operators were completely pulled off the streets two days ago. When Mubarak realized that the brutality of this police was not going to be enough to stem this uprising. So, he pulled the police off and we heard reports -- new reports that have confirmed that jails were opened so you have ex-cons out on the street.

But you also have thugs who have been caught looting and Egyptians who set up neighborhood watches have taken them and handed them over to the armed forces and the armed forces have found on them identification papers connecting them to the Mubarak regime.

So, this is a clearly attempt by the Mubarak regime because it knows it has crumbled to terrify Egyptians staging an uprising against him so that they feel that they need Mubarak back again. But Mubarak is finished.

And so, I want to stress to the American media especially, this is a positive, wonderful event in the history of my country. That peaceful uprising against Mubarak is not targeting anybody. People want freedom. They don't want to hurt anybody.

BLITZER: Well, let me get a quick thought from Fran. Fran, this certainly does underscore the limits of U.S. power in Egypt, indeed throughout the Middle East right now -- all of this.

TOWNSEND: That's right, Wolf. And this is, as you mentioned earlier -- this is a very difficult line to walk. I think the administration absolutely wants to be on the right side of history and privately really does support the protesters. They've not been as vocal as I think the protesters in Egypt would like them to be. We hear a lot of this phrase "managed transition."

And what you hear privately, what is that mean? Well, it doesn't just mean lifting the emergency line and following through with September elections. It means Mubarak should really state clearly not only there will be elections in September, but that he won't run, his son Gamal won't run and that will it be free and fair elections.

The problem is, I think even with U.S. urging, they haven't seen Mubarak do that. And, frankly, if Mubarak had said that on Friday when he made his speech, maybe it would have worked. I think it's too late now for that, sort of, manage transition strategy that the administration is at least talking about privately.

BLITZER: Yes. It may have been too late even earlier in the week.

All right. We'll continue our analysis, guys. Thanks very, very much.

Anderson, back to you.

COOPER: We're going to have continuing coverage right after this break. We're going to show you what's happening away from the cameras in the neighborhoods where residents of Cairo are living and some of them living in fear.


BEN WEDEMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I'm spending time at home now because just the situation in the neighborhood has gotten such that I think I need to be closer to my family rather than the live camera in the work space.




COOPER: We've all seen the pictures of the demonstrators over the last several days. That's what's happening in front of the cameras. In a lot of communities though in Cairo, there are people just trying to live their lives as best they can unsure of what they should do, unsure of their own safety.

Our own Ben Wedeman is in a neighborhood in Cairo in which he live. He joins us.

Ben, what is it like where you are?

WEDEMAN: Well, actually this evening, Anderson, it's much better than the previous two or three nights, I went out with one of the neighborhood patrols -- people there that I know who just live around the block, have got their pitch for pitchforks, knives, their samurai swords. Some of them have more serious weapons like resolvers and shotguns.

They're all walking around the streets, throughout this area. They've set up barricades at the end of every road. There's also some army special forces in the area, as well as tanks on the outskirts.

So, everybody is basically up all night patrolling to make sure that nothing happens in this area because what we've seen throughout the outlying areas of Cairo, as opposed to the center of town, Tahrir Square, is that there has been a lot of looting, a lot of criminal activity, burning of cars, and also just random attacks on anyone who's on the street. So, a very touch-and-go situation, Anderson.

COOPER: There's a lot of talk among protesters that some of that looting is actually sort of agents of the Mubarak regime. You've, no doubt, heard those rumors. What do you know about it?

WEDEMAN: Well, I spoke with one Egyptian army special forces officer who's on patrol in this area, and he confirmed that they have caught people who were involved in looting and arson and they checked the IDs and they are indeed Egyptian police. So, that does seem to be the case. He could not comment on the belief of many people that they are doing this on orders.

Now, we haven't heard that. But certainly we've heard anecdotal evidence, as well as direct comments, like from this special forces officer, that it does appear that police are engaged, though not necessarily directing in a lot of this looting and this arson -- Anderson.

COOPER: And, Ben, finally, there's a report from the government that police have been asked to go back on the streets tomorrow. If that does, in fact, happen -- what do you think the response is going to be? How is that going to be viewed?

WEDEMAN: It will be mixed, at best, Anderson. Many people have seen that they, by themselves, without the help of the police, can do the job of the police. And, of course, the police in Egypt had traditionally -- weren't just maintaining law and order, they were also engaged in demanding petty bribes, basic corruption, a lot of brutality that Egyptians have grown to resent a lot, Anderson.

COOPER: We'll have more from Ben throughout or coverage.

Ben, continue to stay safe. Thanks for the reporting.

Our coverage continues. We'll be right back.


COOPER: And welcome back to our continuing live coverage from Cairo. It is coming up on 5:00 a.m. here in Cairo, day seven of the uprising here.

I want to bring in Wolf Blitzer who's in New York.

Wolf, one of the biggest items we've heard and one of the biggest headlines just in the last couple of hours has been the announcement by the United States that they are going to start offering voluntary evacuations to U.S. citizens in Cairo, in other cities throughout Egypt. The details seemed very sketchy at this point. They're kind of asking people to go to U.S. government Web site, which is obviously a problem for people here in Egypt because they're, in most places, there is no Internet access, but they're recommending, Wolf, that family members of people who are here, who are in the United States look -- contact the family members here in Egypt and then got to the Web site to try to contact the U.S. government.

We have to see, kind of, how this whole charter flight service works out.

BLITZER: Yes, it's not going to be easy. I know there's a lot of contingency planning going in here in Washington, at the Pentagon and elsewhere. Certainly, the escalating anger in Egypt has a lot of countries scrambling to get their citizens to safety.

But getting the word out, you're absolutely right, is very, very tough with limited or no Internet access. Turkey sent over two planes on Sunday to begin evacuations of its citizens. Canada and India are doing some charter flights as well. Meantime, the U.S. embassy in Cairo is trying to provide emergency services for Americans, flights to so-called safe havens in Europe will begin on Monday. The thousands and thousands of American citizens in Egypt are being advised to consider leaving as soon as they safely can do so, but that is a lot easier said than done. You've seen the pictures at the airports.

Isha, this is clearly a mess right now. SESAY: Yes, it's a difficult time for all those people that are stuck in Egypt.

Well, Tunisia was the first Arab country this year to see a massive uprising. That outrage spreads to Egypt. Now, neighboring nations are anticipating and bracing for their own days of rage.

CNN's Mohammed Jamjoom joins me now.

Mohammed, are we really seeing a domino effect in other Arab countries?

MOHAMMED JAMJOOM, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Isha, let me tell you why there's so much concern that there could be a domino effect. We can look at the map here. You see Tunisia. You see Egypt, OK?

But what we're seeing is more protests in the last few days. In Jordan on Saturday, there were protests. In Syria, on Saturday, there were protests. Lebanon had protests today. Sudan had a student protest today. Iraq had a protest today.

And last but not least, Yemen. Yemen has had over a week protest, each protest growing in strength and number, the opposition there to President Ali Abdullah Saleh's regime, trying to get him out of power -- Isha.

SESAY: Let's pick up on the Yemen point. How concern should the U.S. be by the fact that Yemen's protests are marching Egypt in terms of intensity?

JAMJOOM: The U.S. is extremely concerned about Yemen as our regional neighbors because Yemen right now has become a stronghold for al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. They are afraid of a key regional ally like Ali Abdullah Saleh is thrown out of power. There is no viable candidate to replace him, what will happen next.

SESAY: Mohammed, you appreciate you.

Anderson, I want to toss it back to you.

COOPER: Isha, thanks very much.

We're going to have continuing coverage all throughout the next hour live from Cairo. Our coverage continues. Stay with us.