Egypt's embattled government announced steps Thursday aimed at defusing a bloody revolt, as protesters battled pro-regime attackers for control of Cairo's Tahrir Square and spurned an offer to talk.
New Egyptian Prime Minister Ahmed Shafiq dismissed the U.S. and international demands that President Hosni Mubarak should start in the transitional period "NOW" in the country, as Egypt's new vice president pledged to punish all those involved in causing violence and the public prosecutor slapped travel bans on some ministers and officials.
"'NOW' should not be given as an order to Egypt. President Mubarak should leave the presidency in an honorable way. He is leaving anyways within the coming few months, so there is no means for the 'NOW' orders," he told reporters in a press conference in Cairo.
Shafiq apologized for the deadly unrest between supporters and foes of President Mubarak on Cairo's Tahrir Square, the state television reported.
"I offer all my apologies for what happened yesterday and there will be an enquiry," Shafiq said as the fighting on Tahrir Square raged for a second day with at least seven people dead.
Shafiq, who became premier after Mubarak sacked the government in a bid to quell the protests, said earlier that the deadly unrest would be investigated, amid allegations that plain clothes police were involved.
"If the former interior minister Habib al-Adly is proved to have any relation to the current unrest, he will be punished," he said when asked whether Adly was a main cause of the current violence.
The army stood by as Mubarak supporters attacked their anti-regime opponents, using guns, petrol bombs, sticks and rocks.
Shafiq later told journalists that he was unsure whether the attacks had been organized.
"I don't know if it was organized or spontaneous," he said, adding "it was a bloody night, with much damage."
Egyptian Vice President Omar Suleiman told state television, meanwhile, that violence against protesters in central Cairo's Tahrir Square could have been the result of a "conspiracy".
Suleiman said that Egypt would not accept intervention in its internal affairs, after its U.S. ally and others said they wanted swift political change in Egypt.
"Intervention in our internal affairs is strange, unacceptable and we will not allow it," he said in an interview broadcast on state television.
A call by Egypt's anti-government protesters for President Mubarak to step down immediately is a "call for chaos", he said.
Egypt's new vice president pledged to punish all those involved in causing violence and to release youths detained in anti-government protests who had not been involved in violence, state TV said.
Omar Suleiman also said President Mubarak's son would not run for the presidency, a post for which Egyptians have long assumed he was being groomed.
The announcements were made in headline bars at the bottom of the screen.
Gamal Mubarak's chances of assuming the presidency appeared to diminish greatly when his father appointed Suleiman vice president last week, but the vice president's announcement was the first official indication that he would not run.
Suleiman said the Muslim Brotherhood, Egypt's most organized opposition movement, has been invited to meet with the new government as part of a national dialogue with all parties, "but they are hesitant."
He made his remarks in a speech, excerpts of which were reported by state TV. The Islamist group is formally banned in Egypt and has been accused by the authorities of trying to seek power through peaceful means.
Meanwhile, Egypt's public prosecutor said that several ministers and officials, including former interior minister Adly, have been banned from travel and their accounts frozen pending investigation.
They are "banned from travelling abroad while their bank accounts have been frozen until security is reinstated, and until investigative authorities conduct probes to establish who was criminally and administratively responsible for all those events," Abdel Meguid Mahmoud said, quoted by the MENA news agency.
Those being investigated include Adly, steel magnate and senior member of the ruling party Ahmed Ezz, former tourism minister Zoheir Garranah and former housing minister Ahmed al-Maghrabi.
A statement by the public prosecutor said other officials were also under the ban which would last "until national security is restored and the authorities and monitoring bodies have undergone their investigations".
"Given the current circumstances, the public prosecution took these precautionary measures against those included in the decisions of the public prosecutor to protect the sanctity of public money and the interests of the country until investigations are finished," it said.
Protesters had demanded Adly be sacked after police beat, teargassed and fired rubber bullets at demonstrators calling for the president to quit.
PM Shafiq said that anti-government protesters will not achieve anything new by staying on in Cairo's Tahrir Square.
"I do not see that their stay (in Tahrir Square) will get them anything new ... The state is going to lose (economically)... they can stay if they want... they are free," he told reporters, as Vice President Soliman announced that all the youths who have been arrested in the recent unrest would be released immediately.