Mubarak refuses to step down, says won’t bow to pressure (Lead)

February 11th, 2011 - 4:42 am ICT by IANS  

Facebook Cairo, Feb 11 (IANS) A defiant Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak Thursday refused to step down and said he will not bow to pressure, squashing swirling speculation that he was going to quit. He said he would be transferring some powers to Vice President Omar Suleiman.In a televised address the nation, Mubarak said he was initiating steps to allow a peaceful transfer of power following elections in September.

As soon as Mubarak’s speech ended, about a million demonstrators at downtown Cairo’s Tahrir square became restive and began chanting slogans against the president. The angry protesters immediately reiterated their demand for the ouster of Mubarak who has ruled Egypt since 1981.

The protests, which began Jan 25, entered the 17th day Thursday.

Mubarak said he had put in place a framework that would lead to the amendment of six constitutional articles.

“I can not and will not accept to be dictated orders from outside, no matter what the source is.

“I have laid down a vision … to exit the current crisis, and to realise the demands voiced by the youth and citizens … without undermining the constitution in a manner that ensures the stability of our society,” he said.

He added that “as the president of the republic I am not embarrassed to listen to the youth of this country”.

Mubarak said that the demands of the people were “legitimate and right”. He also acknowledged the “mistake” committed by the government.

Al Jazeera reported that Mubarak’s comments were not well-received by hundreds of thousands gathered at Tahrir Square, who erupted into angry chants against him.

Speculation had been rife throughout Thursday that Mubarak would relinquish power.

There has also been speculation that the army may take over, with the Supreme Council of Egyptian Armed Forces meeting in a “continuous session” to discuss measures to “safeguard” the country, DPA reported.

Earlier in the day, senior Google executive Wael Ghonim, who has emerged as the face of the protests after he helped initiate the demonstration through the internet and the Facebook, seemed happy with the prospect of Mubarak demitting office. Ghonim was detained Jan 28 and was released after 10 days.

A senior army official had told the cheering protesters late Thursday evening, “All your demands will be met tonight.”

The 82-year-old president had earlier rejected calls to step down, instead promising not to seek re-election after his term ends in September. His government had also shown willingness to implement political reforms in the last few days.

Foreign Minister Ahmed Abul-Gheit had warned that armed forces could be forced into action “if chaos erupts”.

“Such a step could lead to a very dangerous situation,” he said in an interview broadcast by Al Arabiya television Thursday.

The UN said last week that it had received reports of 300 dead in the demonstrations across the country.

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