Egypt crisis: Hosni Mubarak refuses to quit
Hosni Mubarak has provoked fury among Egypt's protesters by handing over some powers to his deputy but pledging once again to stay in office.
10:23PM GMT 10 Feb 2011 TELEGRAPH
At the end of a dramatic day which saw the powerful army pledge to give Egypts protest movement all it wanted and and so fired expectations that the president would end his 30 year rule, Mr Mubarak instead said on tv again that he would stay on till September.
The protesters were chanting in dismay even midway through the speech as they realised they had been feeding on false hopes all afternoon.
Earlier in the day, the army appeared to be enacting a military coup and announced that the people’s wishes would be met. The main demand of the crowds, however, has been the departure of Mr Mubarak.
When they gathered around the television in Tahrir Square not long before midnight, the democracy protesters were sure Mr Mubarak was about to step down. Most had been celebrating for hours, and many had brought their children to witness history being made.
Arabic television had already told them that the army would step in to provide an interim president.But in a long statement the president ceded unspecified control to his vice-president and repeated that he would remain in his post until elections could be organised in September.
The Egyptian ambassador to the United States said Omar Suleiman is now the "de facto head of state".
Western powers were once again caught off guard by rapidly changing events in Egypt.
Having pushed the Egyptian regime hard for an "orderly transition" to genuine democracy, Mr Mubarak's stubbornness was a blow to the credibility of the Obama administration.
US President Barack Obama said: "The Egyptian people have been told that there was a transition of authority, but it is not yet clear that this transition 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."
Mohamed ElBaradei, a key leader of the Egyptian opposition, wrote on Twitter: "Egypt will explode. Army must save country now".
Mr Mubarak said he was transferring presidential prerogatives to his newly appointed vice-president Mr Suleiman, but said he planned to “bear his responsibilities” as long as his heart was beating.
Foreign Secretary William Hague said it was "not immediately clear" exactly which powers had been transferred to Mr Suleiman.
He called for “an urgent but orderly transition to a more broadly-based government”.
Always dourly confident, never showing a trace of doubt about his lifetime achievements, Mr Mubarak posed as a benign and tireless leader protecting the security and stability of his country and serving the welfare of its people.
However, those in Tahrir Square were dumbfounded by the president’s latest address.
“I am too angry to translate what he said,” one protester said as they made their way to the palace. “Surely he knows it is over for him now. Why is he doing this?”
Immediately after Mr Mubarak's speech, Mr Suleiman called on the protesters to "go home" and asked Egyptians to "unite and look to the future".
Mr Mubarak’s supporters can argue that he saved Egypt from chaos after militants assassinated his predecessor in 1981, kept Egypt out of wars, restored relations with the Arab world after the 1979 peace treaty with Israel and, after long delays, allowed his government to open up the economy to stimulate growth.
He also managed to suppress a long Islamist insurgency in southern Egypt in the 1990s after 1,200 people were killed.
But Mr Mubarak’s stubborn failure to change the corrupt and authoritarian political system he inherited finally caught up with him when he surrendered his powers to Mr Suleiman.
Ten days earlier he had been forced to promise he would step down before a presidential election due in September and to name a deputy for the first time since he took office.
In the last 17 days of tumultuous protests in Cairo and across the country, up to 300 people may have been killed, most of them by Mr Mubarak’s riot police.
The violence did not deter the crowds of demonstrators occupying Cairo’s Tahrir Square, who have stuck doggedly to a simple demand: Mubarak must go and go now.
“Uninstalling dictator ... 99% complete,” tweeted one Egyptian, Adel Shehadeh, hours before Mr Mubarak’s speech.