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Egypt's Mubarak says he will not yet step down

posted 10 Feb 2011, 14:28 by Mpelembe   [ updated 10 Feb 2011, 14:31 ]

Hosni Mubarak, president of Egypt for 30 years and a staunch U.S. ally, hands power to his deputy, ending his one-man rule but not quitting his post.

CAIRO, EGYPT (FEBRUARY 10, 2011) EGYPTIAN STATE TV - President Hosni Mubarak provoked rage on Egypt's streets on Thursday (February 10) when he said he would hand powers to his deputy but disappointed protesters who had been expecting him to step down altogether after two weeks of unrest.

"Leave! Leave!" chanted thousands who had gathered in Cairo's Tahrir Square in anticipation that a televised speech would be the moment their demands for an end to Mubarak's 30 years of authoritarian, one-man rule were met.

Instead, the 82-year-old former general portrayed himself as a patriot overseeing an orderly transition until elections in September. He praised the young people who have stunned the Arab world with unprecedented demonstrations, offering constitutional change and a bigger role for Vice President Omar Suleiman.

Waving shoes in the air in a dramatic Arab show of contempt, the crowds in central Cairo chanted: "Down, down Hosni Mubarak."

In a 20-minute address Mubarak said he would not bow to foreign pressure.

"As the President of the republic, I do not find any embarrassment or fault in listening to young people in my country and responding to that. However, the real embarrassment and shame and what I did not and will not accept ever is to listen to any foreign instructions coming from abroad, regardless of its sources or motives," he said.

Suleiman, a 74-year-old former intelligence chief, is not widely popular with protesters who are seeking a complete break with the military-dominated system which has governed Egypt for the past six decades.

But Mubarak was unrepentant about handing over to his deputy.

"I decided to delegate to the Vice President responsibilities of the President according to the constitution. I know very well that Egypt will overcome this crisis and that its will will not be broken. It will stand on its feet again with the commitment and honesty of its children all of her children, and will return the cunning of the plotters and the gloating of gloaters," he explained.

Suleiman later appeared on state television to say there was a "road map" for transition and insisted he would oversee a "peaceful transition of power".

The anger on the streets of Cairo and Alexandria, hours ahead of a planned "Day of Martyrs" protest on Friday (February 11) to commemorate the 300 or more killed by security forces since January 25 appeared ominous in an environment where the army has been on the streets for two weeks and on Thursday said it was in charge.

News that Mubarak may hand over power, or be unseated, in this key American ally in the Middle East had earlier provoked loud and emotional cheers in Cairo's Tahrir Square, the focal point for pro-democracy demonstrations.