Embattled Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak says he will stay in office until the scheduled presidential election in September, drawing the outrage of thousands of anti-government protesters demanding he resign after 30 years in power.
Mubarak said he will shift some powers to his vice-president.
"I will not nominate myself for the next presidential elections … so that powers will be transferred to whoever the electorate chooses in fair and square elections," Mubarak said Thursday night as translated from a live state television broadcast.
While he conceded that the demands of the protesters were just and legitimate, he refused to step down.
Instead, he promised to delegate some presidential powers to Vice-President Omar Suleiman. The move means he retains his title of president and ensures regime control over the reform process, falling short of protester demands.
"I have seen that it is required to delegate the powers and authorities of the president to the vice-president as dictated in the constitution," Mubarak said near the end of his address. The article is used to transfer powers if the president is "temporarily" unable to carry out his duties.
In his rambling speech to the "sons and daughters" of Egypt, Mubarak also said he would:
- Lift hated emergency laws when the security situation permits.
- Punish those behind violence over the past two weeks and offer condolences to the families of those killed.
- Request six constitutional amendments demanded by the protesters.
Mubarak blamed the uprising on "foreign intervention," and urged protesters to ignore it.
"Egypt will come through this crisis. Its people will not be broken. It will stand on its feet again," he said.
In a later speech on state television that was translated into English, Suleiman called on Egyptians "to unite, think rationally and look forward."
He urged Egyptians to go back to work and school and not to pay attention to satellite television, which he said was fomenting the protests. Suleiman said he is committed "to do whatever it takes" to ensure an orderly transition to power.
"The door is still open to dialogue," he said. "The people of Egypt are heroes. They will not go after the agenda of chaos."
Just hours before Mubaraks' speech, Egypt's military announced on national television that it had stepped in to secure the country and promised protesters that all their demands would soon be met.
However, protesters in Tahrir Square listening to Mubarak's speech live, reacted with stunned silence and then anger, chanting, "Leave, leave," and "Get out, get out."
Some protesters slapped their hands to their foreheads in anger, while others cried or waved their shoes in the air in a sign of contempt.
Fear and disbeliefAnalysts react to Mubarak speech
CBC's David Common said an estimated 2,000 protesters marched on the presidential palace — which is ringed by military units — early Friday morning to repeat their demands for Mubarak to step down and leave Egypt. Demonstrators also marched on the offices of Egyptian state television, which is guarded by the military with barbed wire and tanks.
"They are the liars," the crowd shouted, pointing at the building, chanting, "We won't leave, they will leave."
Organizers called for even larger protests later Friday. Protest spokesman Mohammed Mustapha said "huge numbers" of protesters were expected.
Crowds had already started streaming into Tahrir Square, the epicentre of the uprising, on a foggy Friday morning. Other protesters camped near Cairo's state TV building, the presidential palace, parliament and the cabinet building in a sign that protests would expand to other parts of the city.
On his Twitter account, Mohamed ElBaradei, the former director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency and the man regarded by some as a possible successor to Mubarak, said the military should intervene.
"Egypt will explode. Army must save the country now," ElBaradei tweeted.
CBC IS THERE
Both Egypt's vice-president and foreign minister have said the only options are negotiations or a military coup d'état, reported the CBC's Nahlah Ayed from Cairo.
"So there's been a lot of talk about the possibility of the army taking over," Ayed said. "The other option, of course, is a crackdown. That would be very bloody and costly."
Tens of thousands of demonstrators have called for Mubarak's ouster, camping out in Tahrir Square for days and clashing with the Egyptian regime's backers. The protests have now gone on for 17 consecutive days.
U.S. President Barack Obama said in a statement that it is not yet clear that the transition of power "is immediate, meaningful or sufficient."
"Too many Egyptians remain unconvinced that the government is serious about a genuine transition to democracy, and it is the responsibility of the government to speak clearly to the Egyptian people and the world," he said.
Obama said the Egyptian government "must put forward a credible, concrete and unequivocal path toward genuine democracy, and they have not yet seized that opportunity."