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Egypt violence ebbs; protesters optimistic

CAIRO — The protesters called it his "day of departure," but Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak showed no overt sign of resigning Friday despite the hundreds of thousands who gathered in Tahrir Square for the 11th straight day to call for his removal.

Amid a beefed-up Egyptian army presence and few major clashes — unlike the previous days — the demonstrators called for three more days of mass anti-Mubarak rallies next week. The mood was upbeat at the square, where chants and nationalist songs echoed until well after nightfall from a huge, diverse crowd.

Young women in headscarves mingled with retirees walking with canes, pious Muslims with prayer marks on their foreheads and young men with bandaged heads who'd been wounded in the week's fighting.

A few hundred Mubarak supporters collected on the outskirts of the square in what the regime called a "day of loyalty," and some engaged in rock-throwing skirmishes with the demonstrators. But they never challenged the anti-government group's hold on the square as they did earlier this week in fighting that killed at least 11 people and injured more than 1,000.

President Obama again called on Mubarak for a prompt transition to a new government after nearly three decades of rule. He said he'd told him in two phone calls since the crisis began that "going back to the old ways is not going to work" and urged him to leave "a legacy behind in which Egypt is able to get through this transformative period."

Obama said, "My understanding is that some discussions have begun" between the Egyptian government and the opposition. However, U.S. officials described the talks Thursday between Vice President Omar Suleiman and some opponents, overshadowed by the violence a day earlier, as unfruitful.

Another session may take place today, with White House encouragement.

While senior officials continued to state publicly that Mubarak would serve out the remainder of his term until elections scheduled for this fall, a onetime Mubarak confidant, Arab League Secretary-General Amr Moussa, drew loud applause when he briefly joined the demonstrators Friday. Moussa, who said that he understands the democracy movement's economic and political grievances, said he'd be ready to run for the presidency after Mubarak's term ends.

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