Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak said tonight that he will not step down. But he says some powers will be transferred to his vice president, Omar Suleiman. Protesters in Cairo are angry that their demands are not being met.
Egypt TV via APTN/AP
UPDATED 4:55 pm: Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak announced he has handed his powers over to his vice president but he refused to step down outright or leave the country, retaining his title of president and ensuring regime control over the reform process. Stunned protesters in central Cairo who demand his ouster waved their shoes in contempt and shouted, "Leave, leave, leave."
The crowd in Tahrir Square had swollen to several hundred thousand in expectation that Mubarak would announce is resignation in the nighttime address to the nation. Instead, they watched in silence, slapping their foreheads in anger and disbelief. Some broke into tears. After he finished, they broke out into chants for him to go.
Immediately after Mubarak's speech, Vice President Omar Suleiman called on the protesters to "go home" and asked Egyptians to "unite and look to the future."
The pair of addresses followed a series of dramatic events Thursday evening that had raised expectations Mubarak was about to announce his resignation. In a surprise step, the military announced on state TV that its Supreme Council was in permanent session in scenes that suggested the armed forces were taking control, perhaps to ensure Mubarak goes. The top general for the Cairo area told protesters in the square that "all their demands" would be satisfied, and the protesters lifted him on their shoulders, believing that meant Mubarak's ouster.
Instead, Mubarak went on the air several hours later, delivering a firm 15-minute address that suggested little has changed. Suleiman was already leading the regime's efforts to deal with the crisis, but the announcement gives him official authorities.
"I saw fit to delegate the authorities of the president to the vice president, as dictated in the constitution," Mubarak said near the end of the speech. The constitution allows the president to transfer his powers if he is unable to carry out his duties "due to any temporary obstacle," but it does not mean his resignation.
Mubarak said he would stay in the country and that he is "adamant to continue to shoulder my responsibility to protect the constituion and safeguard the interests of the people ... until power is handed over to those elected in September by the people in free and fair elections in which all the guarantees of transparencies will be secured."
Mubarak said that the demands of protesters for democracy are just and legitimate, but he adhered tightly to a framework for reform that Suleiman drew up and that protesters have roundly rejected, fearing it will mean only cosmetic change.
He said he had requested the amendment of five articles of the constitution to loosen the now restrictive conditions on who can run for president, to restore judicial supervision of elections, and to impose term limits on the presidency.
He also annulled a constitutional article that gives the president the right to order a military trial for civilians accused of terrorism. He said that step would "clear the way" for eventually scrapping a hated emergency law that gives police virtually unlimited powers of arrest, but with a major caveat — "once security and stability are restored."
Reuters reports that on the 17th day of protests against his rule, President Hosni Mubarak said Egypt was heading "day after day" to a peaceful transfer of power and he was committed to protect the constitution until that happens.
But he spurned protesters' demands that he quit office immediately.
Here is a timeline of Mubarak's rule:
Oct. 6, 1981 - Vice-President Hosni Mubarak is thrust into office when Islamists gun down President Anwar Sadat at a military parade. He is approved as president in a referendum in November and re-elected in Oct. 1987 and Oct. 1993.
June 26, 1995 - Gunmen attack Mubarak's car as he arrives at an Organisation of African Unity summit in Ethiopia's capital Addis Ababa. He is unhurt and returns to Egypt. Mubarak later blames a Sudanese man for the attempt.
Nov. 17, 1997 - Egypt's biggest Islamic militant group, al-Gama'a al-Islamiya (Islamic Group) kill 58 tourists and four Egyptians at an ancient temple near the southern town of Luxor. Six gunmen and three police also die. The state crushed groups including al-Gama'a al-Islamiya and Islamic Jihad, which targeted tourists, Christians, ministers in a 1990s campaign for an Islamic state and has kept a tight lid on such groups since.
Dec. 22, 1999 - Egypt agrees to sell its natural gas through what Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak's office dubs a "Pipeline of Peace". After years of negotiations alongside the strains of Middle East peacemaking, Barak's office says gas will be piped from El-Arish in Egypt to Israel and the Palestinian Authority, and later to Turkey, Syria and Lebanon.
March 2005 - Street protests by the Kefaya (Enough) Movement draw hundreds across Egypt to oppose a fifth term for Mubarak or any attempt to install his son Gamal in his place. Days before, police say they detained about 200 members and supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood.
May 11, 2005 - Parliament votes to change the constitution to allow contested presidential elections, dismissing opposition complaints that strict rules would prevent genuine competition. A referendum later in May overwhelmingly confirms the constitutional change.
Sept. 27, 2005 - Mubarak is sworn in for a fifth consecutive term after winning the first contested presidential election on Sept. 7. Rival Ayman Nour is the only member of parliament to remain seated during the ceremony, apparently to show his refusal to accept the official vote count.
Dec. 8, 2005 - The Muslim Brotherhood increase their seats in parliament after an election marred by violence, but Mubarak's party retains a big majority. Eight people were killed on the last day of voting on Dec. 7. The Muslim Brotherhood says it has won 12 seats, expanding its parliamentary bloc to 88, nearly a fifth of the seats and its strongest showing ever.
Nov. 19, 2006 - Mubarak says he will retain his responsibilities for the rest of his life.
March 26, 2010 - Former U.N. nuclear chief Mohamed ElBaradei makes first public appearance after his return to Egypt in February. ElBaradei has said he would consider a presidential bid if demands are met, including constitutional changes to limit power.
March 27, 2010 - Mubarak returns to Egypt to reassume presidential powers after three weeks recovering from gallbladder surgery in Germany.
Nov. 29, 2010 - The Muslim Brotherhood says a rigged election has all but wiped out its presence in parliament, virtually eliminating opposition to Mubarak's ruling party before a 2011 presidential vote. The group skirts a ban on religious parties by running independents.
Jan. 25, 2011 - Anti-government protests across Egypt begin as demonstrators voice anger, complaining of poverty and repression.
Jan. 28 - Mubarak orders troops and tanks into cities overnight to quell demonstrations across Egypt. The U.N later says around 300 people have been killed in the protests.
Jan. 31 - Egypt swears in a new government. New Vice-President Omar Suleiman says Mubarak has asked him to start dialogue with all political forces.
Feb. 1 - More than one million people around Egypt call for an end to Mubarak's rule.
Feb. 6 - Opposition groups, including the banned Muslim Brotherhood, hold talks with the government, chaired by the vice-president.
Feb. 8 - Suleiman says Egypt has a timetable for the peaceful transfer of power.
Feb. 10 - Mubarak says national dialogue underway, transfers powers to vice-president but he refuses to leave office immediately as protesters demand.