Mubarak ready to quit after Sept; protesters say ''Leave now''


Cairo, Feb 2 (PTI) Buckling under pressure, embattledEgyptian President Hosni Mubarak today agreed to quit officeby September on completion of his term, an offer which wasrejected by protesters who said he had till Friday to leave.

A defiant Mubarak went on television to announce thathe would not contest the September presidential election, butwould not step down immediately, an offer which failed to calmpublic fury as clashes erupted between his supporters andopponents in major cities.

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

Mubarak made his promise after heavy pressure from hisstrongest ally -- the US.

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 crowdwho chanted "Go Go Go Now Mubarak."

In his 10-minute address, 82-year-old Mubarak, who hasruled Egypt uninterrupted for three decades, said he would notflee the country. "I will die on Egyptian soil," he said.

The President, who appeared to be somber, said hewould serve the remaining part of his term to accomplishnecessary steps for peaceful transfer of power and carry outamendments to the rules of Presidential elections.

Mubarak spoke to President Barack Obama for 30 minutesprior to his going on air.

In what appeared to be a snub to Mubarak''s plan tocling to power, Obama called for immediate beginning of anorderly transition in Egypt.

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

The protest leaders immediately rejected Mubarak''soffer and served him an ultimatum to quit before 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... hewould be a dead man walking," ElBaradei said as the protestersvowed not to leave the streets until Mubarak steps down.

Saad al-Katatni, a leading member of the MuslimBrotherhood, said, "The people have spoken. They have said noto Mubarak. He must go immediately."

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

Throngs of people braved no public transport...

walking for miles to join the protest. .

At the beginning of his speech, Mubarak said that "the young 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".

Shortly after his speech, clashes broke out betweenpro-Mubarak and anti-government groups in the Mediterraneancity 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 30-year-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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