Mubarak not to quit now; army orders protesters to leave

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Rania

Cairo, Feb 2 (PTI) Massive Egyptian crowds kept up theirprotest in Cairo and other key towns today, seeking immediateouster of embattled President Hosni Mubarak rejecting hisoffer to quit by September and defied orders from the militaryto "go home".

Thousands of people converged on the Tahrir (liberation)Square, chanting slogans like "Mubarak you have to go now. Go,Go now," as the military for the first time since the outbreakof the uprising against the 30-year rule of Mubarak nine daysago, issued a decree asking the protesters to end theirdemonstrations.

"Your message has arrived. Your demands have becomeknown," Military Spokesman Ismail Etman said on the statetelevision in an address, marking a shift in the army''s stand,with the men in battle fatigues apparently throwing theirweight behind Mubarak.

Opposition parties defied the army orders to "go home"saying they planned to go ahead with a massive rally after theFriday prayers. Their leaders have served an ultimatum onMubarak to quit by then.

Egypt''s army, hugely popular with the public, has sofar refrained from interfering with the huge protests and themarches by the people and it was not immediately known whetherits new warnings were a prelude to any clampdown.

The army''s warning came as Mubarak, buckling underpressure, promised not to stand for presidential electionsscheduled in September, but said he had no intention to fleeEgypt.

82-year-old Mubarak went on television to announce thathe would not contest the September polls, but would also notstep down immediately, an offer which failed to calm publicfury as clashes erupted between his supporters and opponentsin major cities.

"I say in all honesty and regardless of the currentsituation, that I did not intend to nominate myself for a newpresidential term," he said.

His address beamed over giant TV screens on the TahrirSquare -- the hub of anti-government protests in heart ofCairo -- was greeted by boos and jeers by the mammoth crowdswho chanted "Go Go Go Now Mubarak."

In his 10-minute address, Mubarak said he would not fleethe country. "I will die on Egyptian soil," he said.

The President, who appeared somber, said he would servethe remaining part of his term to accomplish necessary stepsfor peaceful transfer of power and carry out amendments to therules of Presidential elections. (More) PTI ZH APV KIM AKJ AKD

Immediately afterwards, authorities announced that the country''s Parliament had been suspended until the results ofthe elections held in late 2010 were revised as promised byMubarak. The authorities also allowed partial revival ofinternet services which had been cut-off by them.

The Parliamentary elections were marred by violence aswell as accusations of widespread fraud and vote-rigging. Thesuspension of two houses of Parliament was announced by theofficial news agency MENA.

Hours after Mubarak''s address, his supporters made feebleattempts to take out counter-protests assembling in front ofthe State TV building urging him not to leave office as itwould plunge Egypt into anarchy.

The climbdown by the President and the warning deliveredby the army came as international pressure grew on Mubarak toquit immediately.

Mubarak''s closest ally, US President Barack Obama, toldhim bluntly that the political change demanded by the peoplemust begin immediately, a call also endorsed by FrenchPresident Nicholas Sarkozy.

In what appeared to be a snub to Mubarak''s plan to clingto power, Obama called for immediate beginning of an orderlytransition in Egypt.

"I indicated tonight to President Mubarak... that anorderly transition must be meaningful, it must be peacefuland it must begin now," he said.

The protesters'' leaders immediately rejected Mubarak''soffer to quit by September and served him an ultimatum to quitby Friday.

Nobel peace prize winner and opposition leader MohamedElBaradei said Mubarak''s speech was as an "act of deception".

"If he does not heed the call to leave power... he wouldbe a dead man walking," ElBaradei said as the protesters vowednot to leave the streets until Mubarak steps down.

Saad al-Katatni, a leading member of the opposition''Muslim Brotherhood'' said, "The people have spoken. They havesaid no to Mubarak. He must go immediately."

The dramatic buckling by Mubarak came after the Egyptiancapital and major cities like Alexandria witnessedunprecedented public outpour onto the streets with anestimated million people flooding the Tahrir Square.

Throngs of people walked for miles to join the protest atthe Square as transport services were off roads.

At the beginning of his speech, Mubarak said that "theyoung people" have the right to peaceful demonstrations.

But his tone quickly turned accusatory and he lashedout at his detractors, saying the protesters had been "takenadvantage of" by people trying to "undermine the government".

(More) PTI ZH APV KIM AKD AKJ

Shortly after the President''s speech, clashes broke out between pro-Mubarak and anti-government groups in theMediterranean city of Alexandria, Al Jazeera reported.

Stone-pelting youths at Alexandria''s Mahatit MasrSquare scattered as automatic gunfire rang out and a tankadvanced towards them before halting and then withdrawing.

There was no sign of any casualties, the channel said.

The speech was Mubarak''s second direct address to thenation since the most serious challenge to his rulebegan nine days ago.

Earlier on Saturday, he sacked his Cabinet, named avice-president for the first time and promised economic andpolitical reforms.

The protests in Egypt erupted close on the heels ofthe events in Tunisia, where a popular uprising ended the23-year-reign of Zine El-Abidine Ben Ali.

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