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Hosni Mubarak announces stepdown

2 February 2011 02:30 am - 24     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}


Cairo, Egypt (CNN) - Bowing to eight days of protests, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak announced Tuesday night that he will hand over power to an elected successor "in a constitutional way" when his term ends in September.

"My first responsibility now is to restore the stability and security of the homeland, to achieve a peaceful transition of power in an environment that will protect Egypt and Egyptians and which will allow for the responsibility to be given to whoever the people elect in the forthcoming elections," Mubarak in a televised address Tuesday night.

But the announcement rang flat in Cairo's Tahrir Square, where thousands of protesters erupted in chants of "Down with Mubarak" and "The people want the president to be judged" following his announcement. Some waved shoes in the air -- a deep insult in the Arab world -- and said they would continue their demonstrations until Mubarak quits outright.

"This is not enough," Mahmoud Safi, a lawyer taking part in the Cairo demonstrations, told CNN shortly before the announcement. "We have one request. We want him to leave our country now, immediately, not tomorrow."

And Mohamed ElBaradei, the Nobel Peace Prize winner who has become a leading opposition figure, said Mubarak's decision would only "extend the agony."
"Whoever gave him that advice gave him absolutely the wrong advice," ElBaradei said.

Mubarak has led Egypt for nearly 30 years since the 1981 assassination of his predecessor, Anwar Sadat, aided by an emergency decree that has allowed him to rule with an iron fist. But following demonstrations that have only grown in the past week, the 82-year-old former air force general told his people Tuesday night, "I have spent enough time serving Egypt."

"I will pursue the transfer of power in a way that will fulfill the people's demands, and that this new government will fulfill the people's demands and their hopes for political, economic and social progress," he said.

Tuesday's turnout in Cairo, Alexandria and other cities came despite efforts by the government to suspend rail service and cut off mobile phone and internet networks, and in spite of the mounting hardships facing Egyptians.

Banks and schools have been shuttered during the demonstrations, teller machine screens are dark and gas stations have run out of fuel. Long lines snaked around bakeries and supermarkets as shops began to ration how much food customers could buy.

Mubarak's announcement capped a day in which anti-government demonstrators stood shoulder-to-shoulder in Tahrir Square for a "march of millions." It comes less than three weeks after a wave of protests that forced Tunisia's longtime strongman to flee to Saudi Arabia in mid-January.

Protesters last week taunted, "Mubarak, Saudi Arabia is waiting for you." But despite calls for him to leave the country, the aging leader vowed Tuesday that "This dear country is my country ... and I will die on its land."

Opposition leader Ayman Nour called the speech "very depressing." Nour said Mubarak was already expected to step down at the end of his term -- but he is believed to be maneuvering to have his son, Gamal, succeed him.

"He did not at any point in his speech reject the possibility that his son could run for president," said Nour, who spent three years in prison after challenging Mubarak in Egypt's first multi-party presidential election in 2005. He said the protesters in Tahrir Square "are angrier than ever" after the address.

Mohammed Habib, deputy chairman of the officially banned Muslim Brotherhood, said Mubarak's speech built around emotional appeals to his decades of military service and the presidency.

"After 30 years during which corruption and diminishing the strategic role of Egypt in the region became the norm, I do not feel it is time to appeal for people's emotion," Habib said. "We should say 'thank you' to him, 'and get out.' "

But Arab League Secretary-General Amr Moussa, a former Egyptian foreign minister, said demonstrators should weigh what Mubarak has said before responding.

"I'm aware that there are certain currents in Egypt that will not see that as satisfactory and they need more," Moussa, a possible presidential contender himself, told CNN. But he added, "I believe that there is something new that has been offered."

In Washington, a U.S. official involved in the Obama administration's deliberations on Egypt said Mubarak's decision would be "a significant step in the right direction." The official said the White House has made clear "at the highest levels" that it wanted Mubarak to state that neither he nor his son would run for president.

In Cairo, the U.S. ambassador to Egypt, Margaret Scobey, met Tuesday with ElBaradei and will be speaking with leaders of other political movements, a senior State Department official said. The official cautioned that Scobey's talks with ElBaradei doesn't mean the United States favors him.

As in Tunisia, the protests have been fueled by economic woes, including a dramatic rise in the cost of living coupled with high unemployment. Despite the government's food subsidies, people are struggling, with an estimated 40 percent of the country living in poverty.

The majority of Egypt's population -- and the vast majority of its unemployed -- is under 30, and many protesters are young men looking for economic opportunities and a better life.

As the demonstrations grew, Mubarak sacked his cabinet and ordered newly appointed Vice President Omar Suleiman to hold talks on political reform with opposition leaders. And on Monday, the military -- the foundation of the modern Egyptian state -- announced it would not open fire on peaceful protesters.

"I think it's all over with once the army makes that announcement," said Juan Cole, a Middle East historian at the University of Michigan. Cole said he had expected the regime to endure the crisis with the support of the military, but he said the military appears to have "cut Mubarak loose."

Shibley Telhami, a University of Maryland professor and Brookings Institution analyst, said the military may have anchored the government -- but, "At some point, they are going to have to make a decision about protecting the institution beyond the man."

And Fouad Ajami, a Johns Hopkins University professor and Hoover Institution analyst, said Mubarak's invocation of his years of service was "almost pathetic."

"I believe the crowd was discovering its power as Mubarak was discovering his own weakness and the vulnerability of his own regime," Ajami said. Now, "No one believes his promises, and now no one really believes his threats."

The demonstrations had turned ugly last Friday, when thousands of riot and plainclothes police used brutal force to crack down on people on the streets.

Unconfirmed reports suggest up to 300 people may have been killed during the protests, U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay said Tuesday. Human Rights Watch has reported 80 deaths from two hospitals in Cairo, 36 in Alexandria and 13 in Suez.

CNN has not been able to independently confirm the death toll. But since the weekend, the army has replaced police as the enforcers of security, and the gatherings have been largely peaceful.

In recent days, protests inspired by the Tunisian outcome have spread to Algeria, Yemen, Jordan and Sudan. Calls for political reform prompted Jordan's King Abdullah II Tuesday to dismiss his government and appoint a new prime minister, and a Facebook page urged similar demonstrations in Syria.

John Entelis, director of Middle East studies at New York's Fordham University, said the Arab world is facing a "wave" of unrest sparked by the Tunisian revolt.

"If it were not for Tunisia, none of this would be happening at this time or in this way," Entelis said.

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  Comments - 24

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  • Janitha Wednesday, 02 February 2011 05:52 AM

    Sri Lankans must do the same. Good lesson to be learnt.

    KD Thursday, 03 February 2011 12:05 PM

    Gone back to dark ages. According to you sun and moon also controlled by your god.

    abc Thursday, 03 February 2011 01:54 AM

    I am really sorry for all saying peoples power, This is God power he who makes things happen when it matters, when time comes e will give power to poor mans body to rise and rise and rise then no leaders, or military force can stop them unless they put and run, EVERYTHING HAS A LIMIT, WAIT \AND SEE

    KHKaru Wednesday, 02 February 2011 04:34 PM

    Uncle Sam is losing friends at an alarming rate. This trend is awfully bad for your well being, US.

    MK Wednesday, 02 February 2011 03:42 PM

    Never ever with our self seeking people who lick the boots of dirty politicians!!!!!!!!

    suganth Wednesday, 02 February 2011 02:46 PM

    MR is very clever than Mubarak. So this will not happen in SL.

    Namal Wednesday, 02 February 2011 12:48 PM

    I think they already have 18th amendment and that's why he was there in power for 30 years..

    Konde bendapu china Wednesday, 02 February 2011 12:17 PM

    Egypt's army calls for protesters to return to their homes and allow the country to return to normal after nine days of huge anti-government protests

    wimalasiri Wednesday, 02 February 2011 12:01 PM

    All sri lanks lets get together in similar fashion

    Cobra Wednesday, 02 February 2011 11:14 AM

    Hopefully the winds of change will blow towards poor Sri Lanka as well!

    prk Wednesday, 02 February 2011 10:12 AM

    Lessons are learned only by those who has the ability to learn

    Calm Wednesday, 02 February 2011 05:56 AM

    They say old age causes senility, but in this case it has brought about sense. President Hosni Mubarak has consented to step down, but why does he want to wait until September? Be aware he may have something up his sleeve!

    padma Wednesday, 02 February 2011 03:18 AM

    Our country also has gone to this type things. Will see the tendency Algeria Tunisia Egypt Yemen ..Next is sri lanka .

    I Hussein Wednesday, 02 February 2011 05:13 AM

    Mubarak tried to rule til the end and he brought his son Jamal Mubarak to take over from him. Egyptions knew this for years but they couldnt do anything though they didnt like the regime. eventually People Power is winning.
    Good eg. to the entire Arab world (and why not) for us too.
    The best person to lead Egypt is Amr Moosa, who hates the American policy.

    citizen1 Wednesday, 02 February 2011 04:00 AM

    Unless he introduces the 18th amendment to Egypt!!!!!

    Ashoks Wednesday, 02 February 2011 03:55 AM

    IN our country people are very scared to the government. People have been suppressed by military power. Our people would never do such protests.

    acord4 Wednesday, 02 February 2011 03:57 AM

    wait guys...same will be happening in srilanka soon.........cos still u guys hav not understood yet

    Nihal Amarasekera Wednesday, 02 February 2011 03:43 AM

    30 years is too long; any democrat will turn despot; power intoxicates. Good lesson for longtime planners; anywhere.

    Penyless_President Wednesday, 02 February 2011 03:40 AM

    He is a gentleman.Hope he will stand by his word.The others should also follow his foot step.

    Ravi Wednesday, 02 February 2011 03:35 AM

    This wind will hit Srilanka very sooooon.

    meranchi Wednesday, 02 February 2011 03:22 AM

    Don't go please don't gooo.......i super power in arab nation

    WAL ALIYA Wednesday, 02 February 2011 03:23 AM

    There's nothing happenned to step down...just get the advise from our specialist RANIL to protect the post...

    zeereez Wednesday, 02 February 2011 03:19 AM

    we sri lankans can learn lessons from Egypt and maldives how to handle dictators.
    But our people dont care, they think anything expensive is a luxury
    so living life just to show off

    tma Wednesday, 02 February 2011 03:14 AM

    People Power will win eventually!

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