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Cairo crowd urging change camped out for 6th day

By Maggie Michael

Associated Press

Published: Wednesday, July 13 2011 6:45 a.m. MDT

Protesters march with a giant Egyptian national flag at Tahrir Square in Cairo, Egypt, Tuesday, July 12, 2011. Egypt's military rulers have sternly warned protesters against "harming public interests" as demonstrators lay siege to Cairo's largest government building and threaten to expand their sit-in to other sites in the capital.

Khalil Hamra, Associated Press

CAIRO — Protesters in Cairo lifted their siege of the city's largest government building on Wednesday, allowing business to resume there but stayed camped out at Tahrir square for a sixth day to press the country's new military rulers for faster change.

Five months after 18 days of mass demonstrations drove President Hosni Mubarak from power on Feb. 11, protesters have returned to the landmark square that was the epicenter of the uprising to express their frustration that "the revolution" has stalled.

Their largely leaderless movement seeks to press various demands, including swift trials for members of Mubarak's regime and police officers who killed protesters during the uprising.

A stern statement Tuesday from the military council failed to quell the protests in Tahrir, and participants said they would continue with their encampment at the square until all their demands are met.

The protest has the feeling of a festival, with people hanging around outside their tents and makeshift shelters, reading newspapers, drinking tea and talking politics. Some picked up trash.

The crowd allowed a towering government building on the square to reopen Wednesday after forcing its closure the day before. Hundreds of Egyptians holding personal documents funneled into the building, long considered a symbol of Egyptian bureaucracy.

"The complex is open upon orders of the revolution," read a banner on its front gates.

The myriad groups participating in the protest have splintered in recent months, though a huge banner was hung in the square that sought to unify their demands. It called for a new government, limited power for the military council, the release of prisoners tried in military tribunals and speedy public trials for former regime officials.

Fearing the pace of change has stalled, many protesters have turned their criticism to the army, once seen as the protector of the revolution for not firing on the protesters during the uprising.

"The council has proved that it is collaborating with Mubarak," said protester Ahmed Mahmoud. "We want a civilian council elected by the revolutionaries from the square."

The military is set to rule until a new parliament is installed after elections later this year. Drafting a new constitution and presidential elections are due to follow, though it remains unclear when.

Meanwhile, a leading watchdog slammed Egypt's military rulers for reinstating the Information Ministry, one of the symbols of Mubarak's authoritarian rule that was seen by many as a propaganda office for his regime.

The Committee to Protect Journalists said in a statement late Tuesday that the move was a major setback for press freedom in Egypt, saying the ministry's history as an arm of the ousted regime makes it unsuitable "to reform the media sector."

The ministry was disbanded and its head sacked following Mubarak's ouster. The military council last week reinstated the ministry and named a new information minister.

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