Protesters refuse to leave city square

EGYPTIAN youth protesters vowed yesterday to remain in Tahrir Square until their demands are met, as tension escalated between demonstrators and the military council running the country.

Egyptian military police fired shots in the air and beat demonstrators blocking a main road in Alexandria on Friday, witnesses said. Another incident in the port city of Suez angered hundreds of protesters camping in capital's Tahrir Square.

The ruling military council, in a statement on its Facebook page, denied the authorities used force against demonstrators. It accused the April 6 Movement, one of the groups behind the uprising that toppled president Hosni Mubarak, of trying to drive a wedge between the armed forces and the people.

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April 6 described the army statement as "misleading allegations", adding: "We will not be scared by any allegation lacking in evidence or support.

"We will be the last to leave Tahrir Square, either alive with our heads held high after triumphantly achieving the demands of the Egyptian people or as martyrs for the sake of God and the nation," it added.

Egypt's interim rulers have reshuffled prime minister Essam Sharaf's cabinet and promised to speed up trials and political reforms. Thousands are keeping up protests across Egypt for the longest-running demonstration since Mubarak was ousted.

The protesters, who are on their 15th day of demonstrations are demanding more freedom for the civilian government led by Sharaf, an end to military trials and a timeframe for the completion of the demands for reform.

Field marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi, who heads the council and was Mubarak's defence minister was expected to give a speech last night.