Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak 311 AP.
(photo credit: AP / Egypt TV)
Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak said Thursday "I have expressed with all clarity that i do not intend to stand down" amid rumors that he would resign during his address to the nation.
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Mubarak said during an address to the nation that he has passed on some of his authority to his Vice President Omar Suleiman. "I will not refrain from punishing those who have committed crimes against our youth," Mubarak continued.
Earlier on Thursday, the vast Cairo square
at the epicenter of more than two weeks of protests was electric and on
edge Thursday night, waiting for Mubarak's
expected televised address with euphoria.
"We're almost there!"
chanted the crowds, swelling to their greatest numbers yet. "The people
want the fall of the regime," they shouted as reports emerged that the
longtime leader could be poised to hand over his powers
possibly to the military, flashing V-for-victory signs. Women made the
high-pitched ululations common in the Middle East during weddings.
Thousands lined up patiently, including women, children and the elderly, waiting to enter the already packed square, while vendors sold flags and headbands in Egypt's colors around them.
But the celebrating in Tahrir Square was tempered with trepidation that behind the scenes the military might already have firmly stepped in and seized control of the country, simply ushering in a new authoritarian regime.
So many resolved to stay put, fearing it was too early to declare victory.
"I am not optimistic. I am afraid that people will feel triumph and leave the square while in fact we have handed power from Mubarak to the army into a military abyss," said Ahmed Abdel-Hamid, one of the young protesters.
Painter Sheikh el-Sayyed Abdel-Rahman was more blunt, calling it a coup.
"They want to turn it from a revolution into a coup. We want a civilian state with no discrimination and no military," he said, echoing Egypt's last great upheaval when army officers in 1952 preempted rising popular dissatisfaction with the monarchy through a coup, ushering in half a century of military-dominated rule.
Organizers feared a departure by Mubarak might take the wind out of the
movement's sails without any real reform of the system. A number of
protesters acknowledged privately they wouldn't mind finally leaving the
square and resuming their normal lives.
Most of the veterans of
the demonstration that has riveted this country and already extracted a
number of promises of reform from a seemingly invincible police state
said they planned to stay until demands such as amending the
constitution and dissolving parliament are met.
say, it doesn't mean we're going to pick up our tents and leave. We
still have demands," said Magdy Mahmoud, a 37-year-old lawyer. "The will
of the people must be realized."