Mubarak refuses to stand down

 

Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak tonight refused to stand down and said he will not give in to foreign dictates during a televised national address.

Mr Mubarak said Egypt was heading "day after day" to a peaceful transfer of power and that he was committed to protect the constitution until that happens. He said he would not leave the country.

The president confirmed he would not run for the office again in the September poll and said those who died during Egypt's unrest did not die in vain, adding he felt the pain of those who had lost family members.

Saying he was addressing the people in Tahrir Square and the nation, Mr Mubarak said he believed in the honesty of the demands of the protesters and their intentions amid nationwide protests against his 30-year rule, but he underlined his rejection of foreign powers dictating events in his country.

Mr Mubarak added he was responding to the nation's demands with commitment.

However, protesters in Tahrir Square waved shoes in dismay at their leader's speech to the nation. Demonstrators also chanted: "down, down with Hosni Mubarak," and "leave, leave," in rage at the speech in which the president but handed over powers to his vice president, Omar Suleiman, a former intelligence chief .

Mr Mubarak said he was proposing amending several articles of the constitution and cancelling another article giving powers regarding terrorism cases. He said dialogue with the opposition had led to a preliminary consensus to resolve the crisis.

Speculation had grown during the day that the president would announce his intention to step down during the speech.

Earlier, the armed forces, which have provided Egypt's post-colonial rulers for six decades, announced they were taking measures to safeguard the nation and the aspirations of the people.

An Egyptian army commander, Maj Gen Hassan Roweny, told tens of thousands of protesters in Tahrir, or Liberation, Square: "Everything you want will be realised." People chanted: "The people demand the fall of the regime, The regime has fallen".

The president has been buffeted by widespread protests against poverty, repression and corruption that began on January 25th in an unprecedented display of frustration at his autocratic rule. It was partly inspired by the example of Tunisia, where street protesters toppled the strongman president on January 14th.

Hundreds of thousands of people have taken to the streets to demand that Mr Mubarak quit, and clashes between protesters and security forces have killed at least 300 people.

Mr Mubarak has clung on to power, promising on February 1st to step down in September. But that was not enough to end an uprising many now are calling the Egyptian Revolution.

Egypt's military today announced it was taking measures to preserve the nation and aspirations of the people after a meeting of the Higher Army Council.

Earlier today, pro-democracy protesters consolidated a new encampment around Cairo's parliament building, and the main focus of the opposition, Tahrir Square, remained crowded.

Organisers were promising another major push on the streets tomorrow when protesters said they plan to move on to the state radio and television building in "The Day of Martyrs" dedicated to the dead which the United Nations says could number 300.

An Egyptian opposition party today pulled out of talks on reform with the government today, saying Mr Mubarak's administration had not responded "to the minimum level of popular demands".

US president Barack Obama today said the United States would do all it can to support an orderly transition to democracy in Egypt.

Reuters