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    Army vows restraint as Egypt set for biggest protest yet

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    The Egyptian army has pledged not to fire on protestors as the North African state braces itself for what is likely to be the biggest challenge so far to President Hosni Mubarak's three-decade rule.

    The Egyptian army has pledged not to fire on protestors as the North African state braces itself for what is likely to be the biggest challenge so far to President Hosni Mubarak's three-decade rule.

    The opposition has called for a general strike and for a "million people" to take to the streets to force Mubarak from power.

    Tens of thousand have already gathered on downtown Cairo's central Tahrir Square, the site of repeated demonstrations and clashes over the past week.

    "This is the people's answer to attempts by the regime to preserve power. They should hear us," protestor Ahmed Hadi told RIA Novosti.

    Mubarak formed a new cabinet on Monday, but the move has done little to appease the demonstrators.

    In a statement quoted by the state-run Mena news agency, the military said: "The presence of the army in the streets is for your sake and to ensure your safety and wellbeing. The armed forces will not resort to the use of force against our great people."

    The army also said it respected the "legitimate rights of the people".

    Egypt has been engulfed in violent protests since January 25. The riots that swept through Cairo, Alexandria, Suez and other Egyptian cities have already claimed the lives of about 150 people, which another 4,000 reported injured.

    A local newspaper reported on Monday that Omar Suleiman, the former intelligence chief whom Mubarak appointed the country's vice-president last Friday, has proposed a plan aimed at easing tension in the country, which includes the Mubarak's resignation.

    Suleiman also proposed a major reshuffle in the leadership of the ruling National Democratic Party, the Al-Shorouk newspaper said.

    MOSCOW, February 1 (RIA Novosti)

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