Egyptian vice-president Omar Suleiman called for
anti-government protests to end after more than 600 people were injured
in clashes between rival demonstrators in the centre of Cairo.
Government supporters throwing petrol bombs, wielding sticks and
charging on horses and camels attacked demonstrators in the capital's
Tahrir Square after the army told the protesters to go home.
The country's health ministry said more than 600 people had been injured
in the violence, with one person, a soldier who fell from a flyover,
The clashes were still happening as night fell.
The violence in central Tahrir Square is the worst in the nine-day
uprising against Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak, who yesterday
announced he would be standing down later this year.
State media said Mr Suleiman - a veteran intelligence chief appointed to
the office of vice-president last week - said protests had to end
before talks with the opposition could start.
Mr Suleiman also urged "all citizens to return to their homes and abide
by the curfew to boost the authorities' efforts in restoring calm and
stability and limit the damage and losses the demonstrations had caused
Egypt since they erupted last week."
His comments came as about 2,000 hard-core protesters were bedding down
in central Cairo on Wednesday night, chanting: "The people want the
president to fall" and "Leave, leave."
Earlier Tahrir Square, a focal point for nine days of anti-government
demonstrations, was transformed into a battlefield, with protesters
lobbing hundreds of stones at each other as the army fired warning shots
into the air.
Regime supporters, who earlier charged anti-Mubarak protesters on camel
and horseback, dropped concrete blocks onto the crowd from above, and
tear gas was fired at anti-government opponents, though it was unclear
who was responsible.
Two petrol bombs thrown by pro-regime supporters landed inside the
grounds of the world-famous Egyptian Museum, where they were swiftly put
Anti-Mubarak protesters hurled stones back and said the attackers were police in plain clothes.
The Interior Ministry denied the accusation, and the Egyptian government
rejected international calls for Mr Mubarak to step down.
Troops made no attempt to intervene as opposing factions clashed in the square.
Earlier, pro-Mubarak youths were bussed into various districts of the capital.
There were reports of guns fired in the air in the square, but it was
not clear who had used guns and the army denied its soldiers fired.
Meanwhile, the first Government charter flight taking Australians out of Egypt has landed in Frankfurt.
Prime Minister Julia Gillard has promised to arrange a plane every day
until the Government has evacuated all the Australians who want to leave
Qantas says it will provide all the passengers who have been evacuated with free flights on to Australia.