US sends warships to Egypt

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The US is sending warships, including one with 800 troops, and other military assets to Egypt as the revolution in the North African country gains momentum, it emerged yesterday.

The Pentagon has dismissed widespread assumptions that military intervention in Cairo is being contemplated, asserting that the objective of the deployment is mainly for the evacuation of US citizens in case the situation in Egypt further deteriorates.

Separately, a US aircraft carrier has been asked to abort its mission and stay in the Mediterranean.

The US moves come as hundreds of thousands of protesters camped in Tahrir Square in central Cairo remained determined not to move until President Husni Mubarak is forced out.

Concessions following talks on Sunday with some opposition leaders left the revolution unmoved.

Meanwhile, attempts by the authorities to return Egyptian commercial life to normality after two weeks of anti-government protests suffered a number of setbacks yesterday.

Some banks reopened but set a limit on withdrawals. Schools and the stock exchange, which was due to reopen yesterday, remain closed until next Sunday, February 13.

Protesters on Tahrir Square formed a human chain around the Mugamma building, where people go to get official paperwork processed, to prevent it from opening as normal.

As Mubarak’s cabinet met for the first time in recent weeks, it emerged that the Egyptian government is selling $2.5bn in short-term debt, after having cancelled auctions last week. It is seeking to revive an economy said to be losing at least $310m a day.

Egyptian state TV announced that the nightly curfew, which has been widely flouted since it was introduced ten days ago, is being relaxed. It will now run from 8pm to 6am.

• An Egyptian security officer was injured yesterday when four rocket-propelled grenades were fired at a security forces barracks in Rafah on the Gaza Strip border, officials said.

It was not immediately clear who was responsible for the attack which Egyptian state television blamed on ‘extremist groups aiming to undermine security’.