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Mubarak says chaos awaits if he resigns

CAIRO — As the toll of dead and injured from overnight clashes mounted Thursday, beleaguered Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak again refused to resign, warning that his abrupt departure would catapult the nation into unchecked turmoil.

"If I resign today there will be chaos," said Mubarak, who has led Egypt for the last three decades and who, after hundreds of thousands of Egyptians poured into the streets to protest his rule, agreed to leave office at the end of his term in September.

Mubarak's comments, in an interview with ABC's Christiane Amanpour, came as recriminations swirled over a highly choreographed attack on a crowd of anti-government demonstrators at Tahrir Square as the Egyptian military stood by.

Health authorities say at least 13 people were killed and 1,500 injured in the protracted mayhem.

As the day ebbed in Cairo, authorities were rounding up journalists, seizing their equipment and threatening them. Many were taken into custody; some were later released.

In his interview with ABC, Mubarak said his supporters were not the instigators of the Tahrir Square violence and instead blamed the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood, a banned political party. "I was very unhappy about yesterday. I do not want to see Egyptians fighting each other," he said.

As an apparent reflection of some divisions within the Mubarak government, officials made oddly disparate admissions — first issuing a public apology for the attacks on protesters, then claiming no role in the bedlam.

Newly appointed Prime Minister Ahmad Shafiq made the apology. Not long afterward, the new vice president, Omar Suleiman, blamed foreign meddling for the recent bloodshed in Egypt and echoed Mubarak's contention that the government had no hand in the deadly attack on protesters in downtown Cairo.

Suleiman urged the opposition to wait less than 200 days for Mubarak to serve out his last term, after which neither he nor his son and once-presumed successor, Gamal, would run for president. Opposition groups are demanding that Mubarak resign immediately.

He said removing the president or dissolving parliament now would only delay the government's ability to meet the protesters' demands, such as making the constitutional amendments that would lift restrictions on political candidates.

On Thursday, state authorities arrested or harassed several foreign journalists, and pro-Mubarak thugs set upon dozens of reporters in and around downtown, beating them and smashing their equipment. Foreigners in particular were targeted.

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