Egypt crisis

Mubarak refuses to resign

President Hosni Mubarak provoked rage on Egypt's streets tonight after he said he would hand powers to his deputy, disappointing protesters who had been expecting him to step down altogether after two weeks of unrest.

The armed forces high command had earlier issued "Communique No.1", declaring it was taking control of the nation in what some called a military coup seeking to end the turmoil under the 82-year-old former general, who has ruled for 30 years.



"Leave! Leave!" chanted hundreds of thousands who had gathered in Cairo's Tahrir Square in anticipation that a televised address would be the moment their demands were met.



Instead, the former air force commander portrayed himself as a patriot and war hero overseeing an orderly transition until an election in September - in which he said last week he would not stand. Mubarak praised young people who have stunned the Arab world with unprecedented rallies. He offered constitutional change and a bigger role for Vice President Omar Suleiman.



Waving shoes in the air in a dramatic Arab show of contempt, the crowds in central Cairo chanted: "Down, down Hosni Mubarak."



Asked if Mubarak would step down, an Egyptian official had told Reuters before the speech: "Most probably". But his information minister had said that would not be the case.



Joy turned to despair and then to anger.



Mohamed ElBaradei, a Nobel peace prize winner and retired U.N. diplomat who runs a liberal political movement, wrote on Twitter: "Egypt will explode. Army must save the country now."







In a 20-minute address in which he said he would not bow to foreign pressure - Washington has called on its old ally to make way quickly - Mubarak said he would "delegate to the vice president of the republic the prerogatives of the president of the republic in a manner that is fixed by the constitution".



Egypt's ambassador to Washington said Mubarak had passed "all authority" to Suleiman, who was now "de facto president" while Mubarak remained head of state "de jure" - in formal law.



But Hassan Nafaa, an Egyptian analyst and government critic, said: ""Mubarak still holds the reins to power and he can easily and at any time retrieve presidential powers from Suleiman."



Suleiman, a 74-year-old former intelligence chief who was promoted just last month, is not widely popular with protesters who are seeking a complete break with the military-dominated system that has governed Egypt for the past six decades.



Suleiman appeared on state television to say there was a "road map" for transition and said he would oversee a "peaceful transition of power" in the Arab world's most populous nation.



Egypt's sprawling armed forces - the world's 10th biggest and more than 468,000-strong - have been at the heart of power since army officers overthrew the British-backed king in 1952.



The army, from politically plugged-in generals to poor conscripts and junior officers, is key to what happens next. "This poses a real dilemma for the army," said Rosemary Hollis at London's City University. "Are they going to allow the demonstrators to escalate their demonstrations so that they push the point that Mubarak has got to go, and that means the army definitely does split with Mubarak? The demonstrators are very disappointed and there will be violence."



Robert Springborg of the U.S. Naval Postgraduate School called Mubarak and Suleiman's speeches "enormously provocative", made by "desperate men, willing to gamble the fate of the nation for their own personal interest".



"The speeches ... are not intended to bring an end to the crisis in a peaceful way but to inflame the situation so there is justification for the imposition of direct military rule. They are risking not only the coherence of the military but even indeed, and I use this term with advisement here, civil war."



The army quelled bread riots in Egypt in 1977 and halted a rampage by policemen over pay in 1986, but the momentous scale and consequences of the uprising that began on Jan. 25 across the country dwarfs those events.





"I have felt all the pain you felt," said Mubarak, who last week had already pledged not to run again in September. "I will not go back on my response to your voice and your call."



"Your demands are legitimate and just ... There is no shame in hearing your voices and opinions, but I refuse any and all dictations from abroad," he said.



"I have announced my commitment to peacefully hand over power after upcoming elections ... I will deliver Egypt and its people to safety," he said, once more, as he did last week, trying to paint himself as the father of the nation.



After the speech last week many Egyptians beyond the urban elites in the vanguard of recent protests had said they were satisfied by a promise of change in due course and have said they were more interested now in an end to economic disruption.



Tourists, a key source of income to the country of pyramids and Red Sea beaches, have deserted the hotels since last month.



But the anger on the streets of Cairo and Alexandria, hours ahead of a planned "Day of Martyrs" protest on Friday to commemorate the 300 or more killed by security forces since Jan. 25 appeared ominous in an environment where the army has been on the streets for two weeks and on Thursday said it was in charge.



"The army is worried that tomorrow on Friday the people will overpower state buildings and the army will not be able to fire back," protester Mohamed Anees said. "The army now is pressuring Mubarak to resolve the situation."



It remained to be seen if his speech would satisfy the army.



"He doesn't seem to understand the magnitude of what is happening in Egypt. At this point I don't think it will suffice," said Alanoud al-Sharek at the International Institute for Strategic Studies. "He has performed quite a sleight of hand. He has transferred authority to Omar Suleiman while somehow retaining his position as ruler."







News that Mubarak may hand over power, or be unseated, in this key American ally in the Middle East had provoked loud and emotional cheers in Cairo's Tahrir Square, the focal point for pro-democracy demonstrations. But some in the crowd were quick to protest they did not want military rule.



Washington's approach to the turmoil has been based from the start on Egypt's strategic importance - as a rare Arab state no longer hostile to Israel, as the guardian of the Suez canal linking Europe and Asia and as a major force against militant Islam in the Middle East.



President Barack Obama, hailing history unfolding, said the United States would support an "orderly and genuine transition to democracy" - Washington would be publicly uncomfortable if the army held on to power, and also does not want Islamist rule.



It had no immediate reaction to Mubarak's speech.



Washington pressured Mubarak to speed up the pace of reform but stopped short of demanding the resignation of the president of the country, which has a 1979 peace treaty with Israel and an army which receives about $1.3 billion in U.S. aid a year.



The protests that have shaken the Egyptian political system and the political landscape of the Middle East was partly inspired by the example of Tunisia, where street protesters toppled the president on Jan. 14.

News
people
Sport
FootballGerman sparks three goals in four minutes at favourite No 10 role
News
Rumer was diagnosed with bipolarity, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder: 'I was convinced it was a misdiagnosis'
peopleHer debut album caused her post-traumatic stress - how will she cope as she releases her third record?
Sport
A long jumper competes in the 80-to-84-year-old age division at the 2007 World Masters Championships
athletics
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Sport
Radamel Falcao was forced to withdraw from the World Cup after undergoing surgery
premier leagueExclusive: Reds have agreement with Monaco
Arts and Entertainment
'New Tricks' star Dennis Waterman is departing from the show after he completes filming on two more episodes
tvHe is only remaining member of original cast
Life and Style
Walking tall: unlike some, Donatella Versace showed a strong and vibrant collection
fashionAlexander Fury on the staid Italian clothing industry
Arts and Entertainment
Gregory Porter learnt about his father’s voice at his funeral
music
Arts and Entertainment
tvHighs and lows of the cast's careers since 2004
Life and Style
Children at the Leytonstone branch of the Homeless Children's Aid and Adoption Society tuck into their harvest festival gifts, in October 1936
food + drinkThe harvest festival is back, but forget cans of tuna and packets of instant mash
Sport
Lewis Hamilton will start the Singapore Grand Prix from pole, with Nico Rosberg second and Daniel Ricciardo third
F1... for floodlit Singapore Grand Prix
New Articles
i100
Life and Style
Couples have been having sex less in 2014, according to a new survey
life
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Volunteer Trustee opportunities now available at The Society for Experimental Biology

Unpaid Voluntary Position : Reach Volunteering: Volunteer your expertise as Tr...

Early Years Educator

£68 - £73 per day + Competitive rates of pay based on experience: Randstad Edu...

Nursery Nurse

£69 - £73 per day + Competitive London rates of pay: Randstad Education Group:...

Primary KS1 NQTs required in Lambeth

£117 - £157 per day + Competitive London rates: Randstad Education Group: * Pr...

Day In a Page

Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam