CAIRO: In an unexpected blow to anti-government protesters, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak on Thursday evening told the nation that he would transfer "some" powers to Vice President Omar Suleiman but refused to step down.
Mubarak's speech followed a day of wild speculation and news channels such as CNN, NBC News, Fox News, Al Arabiya Television and others reported that they had confirmed through 'high-ranking sources' that the Egyptian President would announce his resignation on Thursday night. The reports were met with joy by Egyptians who celebrated on the streets.
But events took a different turn when Mubarak faced the nation after long hours of waiting. "I am addressing all of you from the heart, a speech from the father to his sons and daughters. I am telling you that I am very grateful and am so proud of you for being a symbolic generation that is calling for change to the better, that is dreaming for a better future, and is making the future," Mubarak said.
The Egyptian leader, who is facing increasing demands for his resignation as hundreds of thousands of people continue to protest daily across the nation, pledged to punish those who caused deaths. "I am telling you before anything, that the blood of the martyrs and the injured will not go in vain," Mubarak said.
Mubarak recognized protesters by saying their demands are "legitimate and just demands." "Any regime could make mistakes in any country, but what is more important is to acknowledge these mistakes and reform and correct them in a timely manner, and to hold those responsible for it accountable," he said.
"I am telling you, as a president of the country, I do not find it a mistake to listen to you and to respond to your requests and demands. But it is shameful and I will not, nor will ever accept to hear foreign dictations, whatever the source might be or whatever the context it came in."
Mubarak then repeated his promise that he would not run for another term as president during the September elections. "I have told you my determination that I will hold steadfast to continue to take on my responsibility to protect the constitution and the rights of people until power is transferred to whomever the people choose during September, the upcoming September, and free and impartial elections that will be safeguarded by the freedom: the call for freedom," he said.
And as protesters realized during the speech that Mubarak had no plans to resign, chants erupted in Cairo to demand he goes. However, in what Mubarak hoped would satisfy protesters, he announced that he had transfered some of the presidential powers to Suleiman. It was not immediately clear which powers had been transferred.
But Egyptian ambassador to the United States, Sameh Shoukry, told CNN that Mubarak had transferred "all of his power" to Suleiman, making him the "de facto" leader of Egypt. The claim could not immediately be confirmed.
And while there were few immediate comments from the United States, British Foreign Secretary William Hague said the UK government is "studying very closely" what Mubarak had said. He said they were also studying the remarks of Suleiman, who called on protesters to go home and to not watch television.
"It is not immediately clear what powers are being handed over and what the full implications are," Hague said. "We think the solution to this has to be owned by the Egyptian people themselves."
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