egypt - AP - February 12 2011
An Egyptian man wearing face paint in the colors of the Egyptian flag, in downtown Cairo, Egypt, February 12, 2011 Photo by AP
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Egyptians woke to a new era on Saturday after Hosni Mubarak's 30 years in power came to an end, determined to ensure the army delivers civilian rule and prepared to use people power again if necessary.

In Tahrir Square, jubilant crowds celebrated while activists vowed to stay there until the Higher Military Council now running Egypt accepts their agenda for reform and meets their demands, which include an end to emergency laws used by Mubarak to crush opposition and dissent.

Mubarak end was swift, coming less than a day after he stunned protesters by insisting he would not step down despite widespread expectations that he was about to do so. He was the second Arab leader to be overthrown in a month after Tunisian President Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali was forced to flee his country in January.

In two communiques issued overnight, a core group of protest organizers demanded the dissolution of the cabinet Mubarak appointed on January 29 and the suspension of the parliament elected in a rigged poll late last year.

The reformists want a transitional five-member presidential council made up of four civilians and one military person to prepare for an election to take place within nine months, and of a body to draft a new democratic constitution.

The communiqué demands freedom for the media and syndicates, which represent groups such as lawyers, doctors and engineers, and for the formation of political parties. Military and emergency courts must be scrapped, the communique says.

"The army is with us but it must realize our demands. Half revolutions kill nations," pharmacist Ghada Elmasalmy, 43, told Reuters. "Now we know our place, whenever there is injustice, we will come to Tahrir Square."

Al Arabiya television said the army would soon dismiss the cabinet and suspend parliament. The head of the Constitutional Court would join the leadership with the military council, which was given the job of running the country of 80 million people.

With the threat of possible confrontation between the army and protesters now gone, Cairo residents took photographs of each other holding flowers with smiling soldiers at roadblocks to record the first day of a new post-Mubarak era.

People were buying bundles of state-owned newspapers proclaiming "The Revolution of the Youths forced Mubarak to leave" with pictures of celebrations to keep as treasured souvenirs of this landmark in Egypt's history.

The army dismantled checkpoints on Saturday around Tahrir Square, the epicentre of the protest movement, and some makeshift barricades were being removed. Volunteers cleaned up while a carnival atmosphere lingered.

Egyptians were desperate to restore normality and get back to work after the upheaval damaged the nation's economy.

"This is the start of the revolution, it's not over yet, but I have to go back to work," said Mohammed Saeed, 30, who was packing away his tent.

Mohammed Farrag, 31, who was also decamping after 18 days, said he believed stability was returning. "But, at the end of the day, we will not give up on Egypt as a civilian state, not a military state," he said.

"If things move away from our demands, we will go into the street again, even if we have to die as martyrs."