The Egyptian army began Saturday to reassert control around Tahrir Square, while government officials attempted to negotiate an end to the crisis with opposition leaders.
Hundreds of soldiers moved into a small side street leading to the square past the Egyptian Museum where the most intense fighting between pro- and anti-government forces has taken place.
Angry protesters confronted the soldiers at both ends of the street, but for the first time the army appeared to have sufficient numbers to maintain control.
“The army joined the police against the people,” said Karim Sadiq, 24, as he stood in the side street with several hundred other protesters in an attempt to maintain control.
But the soldiers made no immediate attempt to take control of the square itself. And Saturday morning protesters controlled a large section of downtown Cairo to the east of Tahrir Square, setting up barricades and searching anyone who wanted to enter.
An Egyptian general with a megaphone sat on a white government car near the museum, calmly and at times jokingly urging the protesters to go home and to trust the new government appointed by President Hosni Mubarak.
The government hoped to meet today with a broad array of opposition leaders, including the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood, to discuss proposals for how to proceed toward elections for a new president in September.