Cairo, Jan 31 (Agencies): Upping the ante to topple President Hosni Mubarak, Egyptian protesters on Monday gave a call for a "million man march" on Tuesday as an indefinite strike gripped the country  paralysing all essential services.

The so-called 'Shabab April 6' movement said it plans to have more than a million people on the streets of Cairo on Monday, as anti-Mubarak sentiments reached a fever pitch in the embattled nation.

As thousands of protesters converged on Tahrir Square -- the hub of the protests in the heart of Cairo – their leaders served an ultimatum telling the army to choose between "Egypt or Mubarak", indicating that a decisive stage was nearing.

Baradei says no going back

Leading opposition activist Mohammed ElBaradei had earlier Sunday promised tens of thousands of protesters that change would come to their country, as they staged a sixth day of demonstrations in Cairo and other cities.

'What we have begun today cannot be turned back,' the Nobel Peace Prize winner told the crowd in Cairo's central Tahrir Square through a megaphone on what he termed an 'historic day'.

'We are beginning a new era in Egypt,' said ElBaradei. He is trying to organise the opposition, but faces some skepticism, largely owing to his many years outside the country, including at the helm of the UN's nuclear watchdog.

A few hundred protesters remained in Tahrir Square into Monday morning despite a curfew and severe government-ordered disruptions to phone and internet services. But their numbers had dwindled and the protests remained peaceful, according to satellite television broadcaster al-Jazeera.

The Army increased its presence on the streets of the capital, and blocked roads with tanks and flew in fighter jets over the city after lootings and arson were witnessed.

Gamal Nasser, a spokesman for the largest opposition grouping, the Muslim Brotherhood, said his group was in talks with ElBaradei and other movements to form a national unity government without President Hosny Mubarak or his ruling National Democratic Party.

ElBaradei, Arab cleric ask Mubarak to quit

Pro-democracy activist and Nobel Laureate Mohammad ElBaradei, asked the embattled president to "step down today itself."

"It is loud and clear from everybody in Egypt that Mubarak has to leave today," ElBaradei said in an interview.

"He needs to leave today... to be followed by a smooth transition (to) a national unity government to be followed by all the measures set in place for a free and fair election."

As Mubarak refused to quit, influential Arab cleric Yusuf al-Qaradawi accused him of having turned "blind, deaf and dumb" and asked him to step down.

The widely respected Sunni Muslim cleric asked Mubarak to quit for the good of the country, as his ouster was the only solution to Egypt's crisis.

Prisoners escape; death toll 150

In the chaos, thousands of prisoners were said to have escaped detention facilities in different areas of the country and had become one of the greatest security concerns for many residents. At least four prisons in Cairo had break outs.

They included political prisoners - the Muslim Brotherhood said 38 members of its group were released Sunday - but witnesses also said they feared violent offenders were out on the streets.

At least 150 people have died so far in violence linked to the unrest.

There was damage to artefacts at the Egyptian Museum, including to items from the King Tutankhamun exhibit, but it remained limited to one section of the building, officials said. Officers from the much despised police force were blamed for this and other attacks.

Mubarak for democratic reform

Egypt's embattled President Hosni Mubarak has tasked his new prime minister on Sunday to ram through democratic reforms. His instructions to Prime Minister Ahmed Shafiq were read out on state television but had no discernable effect on protesters who vowed to continue their demonstrations until Mubarak stepped down.

Mubarak - who spent the morning visiting troops, according to state television - has so far reshuffled some top positions and vaguely pledged better economic prospects and freedoms. He later met with military and other officials over new the cabinet appointments.

Importantly, he appointed his former intelligence chief, Omar Suleiman, as vice president - a post that has been vacant for nearly three decades - but many who headed to the streets said it was not enough.

US calls world leaders

The US, Egypt's key ally, said it expected events in Egypt to lead to a 'transition', ending with democratic elections, as President Barack Obama consulted with key leaders in the region.

Obama has reached out to the leaders of Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Israel and Britain on the fast unfolding situation in Egypt, the White House said on Monday.

"The President asked each of the leaders that he spoke to for their assessment of the situation, and agreed to stay in close contact going forward," the White House said in a statement.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on morning talk shows for the first time called for 'free and fair elections' and an 'orderly transition' in Egypt, ruled for the last three decades by Mubarak, though she stopped short of calling for Mubarak to step down.

Hamas hope regime change

In Gaza, the residents of Hamas-ruled Gaza are closely watching the drama unfolding in Egypt, believing any change in the government there would be positive because of restrictions imposed by President Hosni Mubarak on their blockaded territory.

Egypt and Israel severely limited access to Gaza after Hamas took over the crowded coastal strip of 1.5 million people from Western-backed Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in 2007.

Gaza and Egypt share a 15-km border, and hundreds of smuggling tunnels beneath it serve as a main supply line for Gaza.

"Any Gazan is waiting for a change on the Egyptian side, because Egypt is the lung that we breathe through," a Hamas official said on Sunday.

Foreigners flee

The unrest has caused foreigners to flee in droves, with Western and Arab states saying they will arrange special flights to evacuate their citizens. A great crush was being reported at Cairo airport.

The looting has caused divisions within Egypt, as concern for safety has roused some citizens to confront protesters, demanding an end to the chaos.

India has begun the evacuation of Indians from the country and around 300 Indians will be returning to Mumbai on Monday aboard a special flight of Air India.

"The special flight will carry 300 Indians, mainly women and children. The arrangements are being supervised by the Indian embassy in Cairo," the External Affairs ministry said.

News Channel/Internet shut down

Meanwhile, the official MENA news agency said that Al-Jazeera, the pan-Arabic satellite channel, has been banned in Egypt now. al-Jazeera said its Arabic service was forced by the government to close its

The unrest in Egypt also affected stock markets across the Middle East, which kept on tumbling. Internet connections across most of the country remained shut off.