As protesters reject the announcement that Egyptian government apparatchiks are to stand down, the US appears to be backtracking on its wish for President Mubarak to leave office quickly.

12 days after the protests in Egypt began, President Mubarak is still in place.

He is trying to get business back to work and isolate the protesters. Channel 4 News this evening saw people being prevented from taking food into the square.

Throughout Saturday thousands of anti-government demonstrators remain camped out in Cairo’s Tahrir Square on the 12th day of protests demanding an end to the 30-year rule of Egypt’s President Hosni Mubarak.

At one stage there was an angry stand-off between the army and demonstrators occupying the square. Senior officers appealed for the barricades to be dismantled.

But the protesters formed a human chain to stop the tanks from entering.

Reporting for Channel 4 News, Jonathan Rugman said that the army was not attacking the protesters but appeared to be squeezing them. This afternoon the crowds were being forced to file into Tahrir Square one by one.

On Channel 4 News this evening, the programme’s international editor, Lindsey Hilsum, said she thought the Americans were back-tracking from the position they held yesterday, when they were apparently putting heavy pressure on Egypt’s president to step down.

At a security conference in Munich today, Hillary Clinton indicated that the regime needed to stay in power. Then, this evening, President Obama’s special envoy to Egypt announced that he thought President Mubarak needed to remain in place in order to oversee political change.

“We’re seeing the Americans basically realising that they couldn’t do what they initially wanted – and changing track,” said Lindsey Hilsum. “I think President Mubarak has more power today than he had yesterday.”

President Mubarak has more power today than he had yesterday. Lindsey Hilsum

The mood earlier in the day was reported to be calm, but scuffles between pro- and anti-Mubarak supporters were reported.

On Friday some 200,000 protesters gathered in Cairo to demand President Mubarak’s removal from office in what was dubbed a “day of departure”.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said this morning that Egypt’s political transition should take place “as orderly but as expeditiously as possible”, following President Mubarak’s announcement that he will not stand for re-election.

She told a security conference in Munich that the president “has given a clear message to his government to lead and support this process of transition”.

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