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Egyptians hail a 'second revolution'

The protesters pressed a flurry of demands. Observers pointed to a lack of organization.

CAIRO - Thousands of protesters filled Tahrir Square on Friday for what was billed as a "second revolution," chanting their demands: Try former President Hosni Mubarak and his cronies immediately, end military courts, replace the military government with civilian leaders, reform the constitution, and delay the September elections.

There were so many demands, so many slogans and signs, it was difficult to keep track.

"Our message is to continue our revolution until we achieve our goals," said Mazen Ragab, 25. Ragab, an English teacher, said the goals were "security, stability - something like that."

Liberal activists called the protest a success. But analysts and observers said it was the latest proof that Egypt's progressives had failed to organize themselves post-revolution into a unified political force capable of overtaking the Muslim Brotherhood, a far more established opposition movement, in the forthcoming elections.

"Egypt's liberals are having a lot of trouble with the transition" since Mubarak's ouster in February, said Shadi Hamid, director of research at the Brookings Doha Center. "They're good at protests, but not good at organizing their demands. People are getting frustrated that there's no game plan."

Four liberal and secular groups issued a joint list of demands ahead of Friday's protest, including guaranteeing Egypt will be a civil state, ending military courts used to try protesters and other civilians, and postponing the elections until they are better able to compete.

But unity is about more than demands, Hamid said.

Many Egyptians still don't know what it means to be a liberal, he said. If liberal activists and candidates don't get their message across soon, he added, they could be "wiped out" by the Muslim Brotherhood in the elections.

The Islamic movement was suppressed under Mubarak's military-backed regime. But in recent weeks its leaders have allied themselves with the military government and refused to participate in Friday's protest because it would "drive a wedge" between the army and the people, according to a statement.

"The liberals are very reactive - the military does something, they react," Hamid said. "But the Islamists are building; they're forming coalitions and figuring out a way to win in September."

To succeed in the new government, Hamid said, liberals will have to form their own coalitions, likely with religious groups, and let go of being so secular.

Amani Nour Eldin, 32, disagreed. She wore a head scarf and conservative outfit to the square, but said it was important to her that the liberal movement in Egypt stays secular, with secular candidates.

"There are a lot of people like me here who want to vote for a political party that is not about religion," Eldin said.

Protesters chanted, "The square is packed, packed, we can gather the numbers without the Muslim Brotherhood!" and carried signs demanding, "I want a military council made up of civilians as well as the military!"

Also Friday, officials at a Group of Eight summit said that rich countries and international lenders were aiming to provide $40 billion in funding for Arab nations trying to establish true democracies.

Officials meeting in Deauville, France, didn't fully detail the sources of the money, or how it would be used, but the thrust was clearly to underpin democracy in Egypt and Tunisia - where huge public uprisings ousted autocratic regimes - and put pressure on repressive rulers in Syria and Libya.

The overall message from President Obama and the other G-8 leaders appeared to be warning autocratic regimes in the Arab world that they would be shut out of rich-country aid and investment, while new democracies are encouraged to open their economies.