Cairo, Feb 11 (PTI) Egyptian military today came outin support of a beleaguered President and asked protesters togo home, assuring them of free and fair elections in Septemberand the lifting of a much-hated emergency law, in a stand thatcaused widespread disappointment among the people who pledgedto take their campaign to its ''final stage''.
As the powerful military unexpectedly threw its weightbehind the President, tens of thousands of angry peopleconverged again on the streets and vowed to take the protestto the "doorsteps of political institutions".in what was labelled as a ''Farewell Friday'', hugerallies snaked into the city centre after the Friday prayers,and many parts of the country observed a shutdown with textileworkers, journalists and transportation workers walking out ofwork and some joining the protesters.
As Mubarak dashed hopes of millions of his countrymenand global expectations by refusing to step down, the militarySupreme Command Council met twice in less than 24 hours beforeannouncing that it supported Mubarak''s move to transfer someof his powers to Vice President Omar Suleiman.
Egyptian state-television interrupted its programme toread out the Council''s "communique number 2" in which it vowedto lift the much-criticised emergency laws in the country,without specifying a date and said it would guarantee ''freeand fair elections'' in September, as outlined by Mubarak.
But, in what appeared to be a warning to protesters,who for 18 days have been calling Mubarak to stand down afterthree decades in power, the military asked them to go home andget back to work.
The Council meeting presided over by Defence MinisterHussein Tantawi said it had agreed to "lift emergency law assoon as the current circumstances were over" and to hold "freeand fair presidential elections based on constitutionalamendments".
The communique said it would not take action againstthose calling for reforms but warned against any harm to thesecurity of the nation.
The Army also asked the workers unions who have beenon wildcat strikes for the last two days to go back to work.
People, who were anticipating a more favourablestatement, were disappointed by the stand taken by the Armyand vowed to carry their struggle to the last stage.
Labelling today''s march, in which a call was given formillions to come onto the streets, as a ''Farewell Friday'',hordes of people also started converging on Mubarak''s AbedeenPalace and the state-television office, vowing to take thestruggle to the "doorsteps of the political institutions", AlJazeera reported.
As hundreds of people surrounded the radio andtelevision building in Cairo, which they see as a mouthpieceof Mubarak''s regime, some reports said several employees ofthe state television had quit jobs.
In a significant boost to the marchers, leadingclerics of the Al Azhar mosque also joined their ranks afterthe Friday prayers. .