Cairo, Feb 11 (PTI) Massive crowds thronged thestreets of Egypt in what they called the "final stage" oftheir campaign to topple an autocratic regime, laying a siegeat the presidential palace, as reports indicated that adefiant President Hosni Mubarak may have left Cairo for thesouthern resort city of Sharm-el-Shaikh.
Their elation turning into despair after Mubarakrefused to budge from his position last night, the crowdsmoved out from the Tahrir Square on the 18th day of theirprotests, marching to the presidential palace and surroundingthe state television building, institutions they considersymbols of the regime.
As protests were held throughout the country withworkers unions, journalists and clerics too joining in,reports indicated that Mubarak had left Cairo along with hisfamily and was headed to an undisclosed location, Al Jazeerasaid.
Some reports said he may be bound for his residence atthe Red Sea resort of Sharm al-Shaikh.
Earlier in the day, the Army appeared to throw itsweight behind Mubarak''s transition plan, assuring theprotesters that it will guarantee a free and fair election inSeptember, and asking them to go home and get to work.
Hugely disappointed by the military''s stand, theprotesters pledged to take their campaign to a final stage,calling on millions to join the street protests on a ''FarewellFriday''.
The developments came a day after Mubarak appeared ontelevision and dashed the hopes of the people by reiteratingthat he will step down only in September. The 82-year-oldalso announced that he would be transferring some of hispowers to Vice President Omar Suleiman.
The ''Go Mubarak, Go Suleiman'' cry growing shriller,the infuriated protesters marched to the Abedeen palace afterFriday prayers and almost laid a siege to it, amid a heavymilitary presence.
At the state television building, thousands blockedpeople from entering or leaving, accusing the broadcaster ofsupporting the current government and of not truthfullyreporting on protests.
Tanks and military personnel have been deployed tobolster barricades around the presidential palace though therewere no indications yet that the military intends to launch acrackdown.
In a statement on state television earlier, themilitary had promised to lift a 30-year-old emergency law "assoon as the current circumstances end", besides assuringpeople that it would guarantee changes to the constitution.
But, the statement disappointed many people whovowed to take the protests to "a last and final stage". (MORE)PTI WAJ AKJ