* Mubarak steps down after 30 years in power
* Hands over power to military council ahead of Sept vote
* Ecstatic scenes in Cairo's Tahrir Square
(Updates with details, context of Mubarak giving up power)
By Edmund Blair and Samia Nakhoul
CAIRO, Feb 11 (Reuters) - Hosni Mubarak stepped down as
Egypt's president on Friday, handing over to the army and ending
three decades of autocratic rule, bowing to escalating pressure
from the military and protesters demanding that he go.
Vice President Omar Suleiman said a military council would
run the affairs of the Arab world's most populous nation. A free
and fair presidential election has been promised for September.
A speaker made the announcement in Cairo's Tahrir Square
where hundreds of thousands broke down in tears, celebrated and
hugged each other chanting: "The people have brought down the
regime." Others shouted: "Allahu Akbar (God is great).
The 82-year-old Mubarak's downfall after 18 days of
unprecedented mass protests was a momentous victory for people
power and was sure to rock autocrats throughout the Arab world
Egypt's powerful military gave guarantees earlier on Friday
that promised democratic reforms would be carried out but angry
protesters intensified an uprising against Mubarak, marching on
the presidential palace and the state television tower.
It was an effort by the army to defuse the revolt but, in
disregarding protesters' key demand for Mubarak's ouster now, it
failed to calm the turmoil that has disrupted the economy and
rattled the entire Middle East.
The military's intervention was not enough.
The tumult over Mubarak's refusal to resign had tested the
loyalties of the armed forces, which had to choose whether to
protect their supreme commander or ditch him.
The sharpening confrontation had raised fear of uncontrolled
violence in the most populous Arab nation, a key U.S. ally in an
oil-rich region where the chance of chaos spreading to other
long stable but repressive states troubles the West.
Washington has called for a prompt democratic transition to
restore stability in Egypt, a rare Arab state no longer hostile
to Israel, guardian of the Suez Canal linking Europe and Asia
and a major force against militant Islam in the region.
The army statement noted that Mubarak had handed powers to
govern the country of 80 million people to his deputy the
previous day -- perhaps signalling that this should satisfy
demonstrators, reformists and opposition figures.
"This is not our demand," one protester said, after relaying
the contents of the army statement to the crowd in Cairo's
central Tahrir Square. "We have one demand, that Mubarak step
down." He has said he will stay until September elections.
The Muslim Brotherhood, an Islamist opposition group, urged
protesters to keep up mass nationwide street protests,
describing Mubarak's concessions as a trick to stay in power.
REFORMS TOO LITTLE TOO LATE
Hundreds of thousands of protesters rallied across Egypt,
including in the industrial city of Suez, earlier the scene of
some of the fiercest violence in the crisis, and the second city
of Alexandria, as well as in Tanta and other Nile Delta centres.
The army also said it "confirms the lifting of the state of
emergency as soon as the current circumstances end", a pledge
that would remove a law imposed after Mubarak became president
following Anwar Sadat's assassination in 1981 and that
protesters say has long been used to stifle dissent.
It further promised to guarantee free and fair elections and
other concessions made by Mubarak to protesters that would have
been unthinkable before Jan. 25, when the revolt began.
But none of this was enough for many hundreds of thousands
of mistrustful protesters who rallied in cities across the Arab
world's most populous and influential country on Friday, fed up
with high unemployment, a corrupt elite and police repression.
Since the fall of Tunisia's long-time leader Zine al-Abidine
Ben Ali, which triggered protests around the region, Egyptians
have been demonstrating in huge numbers against rising prices,
poverty, unemployment and their authoritarian regime.
World powers had increasingly pressured Mubarak to organise
an orderly transition of power since the protests erupted on
Jan. 28 setting off an earthquake that has shaken Egypt sending
shock waves around the Middle East.
Mubarak, 82, was thrust into office when Islamists gunned
down his predecessor Anwar Sadat at a military parade in 1981.
The burly former air force commander has proved a far more
durable leader than anyone imagined at the time, governing under
emergency laws protesters say were used to crush dissent.
The president has long promoted peace abroad and more
recently backed economic reforms at home led by his cabinet
under Prime Minister Ahmed Nazif. But he always kept a tight lid
on political opposition.
Mubarak resisted any significant political change even under
pressure from the United States, which has poured billions of
dollars of military and other aid into Egypt since it became the
first Arab state to make peace with Israel, signing a treaty in
(Cairo newsroom, writing by Peter Millership; editing by Mark
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