Protesters’ hopes that Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak would step down were dashed Thursday evening when he warned his nation in a televised address that “we cannot allow this chaos to continue.”
The embattled president rejected calls for his resignation, while
promising extensive reforms and insisting that he had been persuaded that the tens of thousands of his countrymen demonstrating against his government have valid grievances.
Mubarak said he has passed many of his official duties to his vice president, Omar Suleiman. But 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 a 15-minute address on state TV. The article is used to transfer powers if the president is "temporarily" unable to carry out his duties and does not mean his resignation.
“The people of Egypt know who Hosni Mubarak is,” he declared, adding that Egypt is going through “a very crucial moment” in its history.
Mubarak recounted his long military career and professed he had “lived for this country” in order to keep Egypt secure. He said he would never leave Egypt until “I am buried in the soil of Egypt.”
Mubarak said that errors had been made and must be corrected. In that regard, he promised that six articles of the nation’s constitution would be amended in response to his citizens’ demands. He also pledged that those who had attacked protesters in earlier clashes would be punished.
Onlookers in Cairo’s Tahrir Square said the crowd’s mood quickly changed from joy to intense anger and frustration.
Protesters watched in stunned silence to Mubarak's speech, slapping their hands to their foreheads in anger, some crying or waving their shoes in the air in a sign of contempt. After he finished, they resumed their chants of "Leave! Leave! Leave!"
Mubarak’s speech insisting he would remain president until elections in September was in stark contrast to reports leaked by top Egyptian military leaders and others throughout the day suggesting Mubarak finally would step down. Some onlookers even said that schism appeared to raise questions about who is actually in charge of the Egyptian government.
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