Celebration turns to anger as Mubarak refuses to quit

Celebration turns to anger as Mubarak refuses to quit

By staff writers
10 Feb 2011

Contrary to expectations last night that Egypt's president Mubarak was preparing to resign, he has remained defiant about staying until September 2011.

Going on state television to address protesters "in Tahrir Square and beyond" with "a speech from the heart", Hosni Mubarak declared: "I am not embarrassed to listen to the youth of my country and to respond to them." But he then refused to bow to their demands.

Apologising to the families of protesters killed in clashes with the security forces in recent weeks, he nevertheless said that the country's emergency laws would only be lifted when conditions were right, and that he would ignore "diktats from abroad".

He and his deputy called for the end of protests against his 30-year rule that began on 25 January 2011. "Egypt has gone through difficult times and we cannot allow these to carry on," he said.

"The damage to our economy will lead to a situation in which the youth calling for reform will be the first to be affected," added the embattled president.

The speech, which was greeted with anger by protesters, followed the largest street protests in Egypt so far, with millions of people coming out to demand an end to the dictatorship.

Earlier, Hassan al-Roweni, an Egyptian army commander, told protesters in the square that "everything you want will be realised", reported Al Jazeera - which has itself been targeted by the Egyptian regime.

Hassam Badrawi, the Secretary General of the ruling National Democratic Party, told the BBC and Channel 4 News earlier on that he expected Mubarak to hand over his powers to Omar Suleiman during his TV address.

"I think the right thing to do now is to take the action that would satisfy ... protesters," Badrawi told BBC television in a live interview.

But this did not happen, and both men "went on the defensive in a largely unapologetic and determined way", an observer told Ekklesia.

In the USA, President Obama had said publicly that the world was "witnessing history unfold" in the Middle East. But the comment proved peremptory.

The BBC's correspondent Paul Adams, who has been reporting live from Tahrir Square in Cairo, describes what happened after the speeches by Mubarak and Vice-President Omar Suleiman.

He wrote: "The mood in Tahrir Square has changed dramatically in the wake of President Mubarak's televised address. There is an angry deafening roar rising from the crowd with numerous chants calling for an end to the regime and 'revolution till we die'."

It seems fairly clear from the reaction of the crowd that they are not satisfied with the concessions announced by President Mubarak.

Adams continued: "The mood contrasts dramatically with the celebratory, almost party atmosphere that existed in the hours running up to his statement on television."

The Vice President called on protesters to "go back home" and "go back to work".

Critics say that the regime is "fatally out of touch" with the depth of popular opinion, and that the situation still remains close to a tipping point of change - with further developments likely in the coming hours and days.

Earlier in the day, the Supreme Council of Egyptian Armed Forces had met to discuss the ongoing protests against Mubarak's government.

Last night, Baroness Catherine Ashton, the European Union's foreign affairs chief, said that "the time for change is now".

She continued: "President Mubarak has not yet opened the way to faster and deeper reforms... The EU will continue to engage with the Egyptian authorities to convey the need for an orderly, meaningful and lasting democratic transition."

[Ekk/3]

Keywords: egypt | mubarak
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