Mubarak refuses to step down; promises constitutional reforms


Cairo, Feb 2 (PTI) Defiant Egyptian President HosniMubarak today refused to step down immediately but said hewill not fight for another term in September, an announcementrejected by protesters who demanded his ouster by Friday.

In a televised address, Mubarak said, "I say in allhonesty and regardless of the current situation, that I didnot intend to nominate myself for a new presidential term."

Making it clear that he was in no mood to give uppower as of now, Mubarak said he would seek changes to theconstitution and called on "parliament to discuss amendmentsto Articles 76 and 77 of the constitution to change theconditions for presidential candidacy and limit terms."

The next presidential election is scheduled forSeptember. Until now, officials had indicated 82-year-oldMubarak would likely run for a sixth six-year term of office.

Mubarak also said he has no intentions of leavingEgypt. "This is my country. This is where I lived, I foughtand defended its land, sovereignty and interests, and I willdie on its soil," he said.

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.

Mubarak''s words failed to convince over a millionprotesters gathered at the Cairo''s Tahrir Square. They resumedtheir "Leave, Mubarak!" chant shortly after his speech.

Tens of thousands of unrelenting protesters who hadconverged on the Tahrir Square chanted, "we won''t leavetomorrow, we won''t leave Thursday ...", in a clear messagethat they will continue their protest till Mubarak steps down.

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. .

Unfazed by the countrywide protests, Mubarak in his fresh speech said that he will ensure a "peaceful transitionof power" after elections due in September this year.

Watching his speech on a giant TV screens, protestersbooed and shouted "Go Mubarak Go" and "Leave! Leave! Leave!"

The protesters jammed in shoulder-to-shoulder turningTahrir Square into a sea of humanity in the "march of amillion", after the powerful military showed signs ofdistancing itself from the besieged President vowing that itwould not fire on the protesters.

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".

Mubarak''s address came as he virtually lost thebacking of his strongest ally - the US - with President BarackObama reportedly sending a message through an envoy to Mubaraknot to run for another term.

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

ElBaradei said if Mubarak did not heed the call toleave power at once, he would be "not only a lame-duckpresident but a dead man walking".

"He''s unfortunately going to extend the agony here foranother six, seven months. He continues to polarise thecountry. He continues to get people even more angry and could(resort) to violence," he was quoted as saying by Al Jazeera.

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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