Thousands march in support of Mubarak after defiant speech

Small groups of supporters gather in Cairo following Egyptian president's declaration that he will serve out his term, "die on Egyptian soil"; clashes reported between protesters, supporters in Alexandria.

Egypt Mubarak supporters 311 AP (photo credit: AP)
Egypt Mubarak supporters 311 AP
(photo credit: AP)
CAIRO — Thousands of people marched in support of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak Wednesday morning, hours after he made a defiant speech promising to serve out the last months of his term and "die on Egyptian soil."
The small rallies appeared to be the start of an attempt by Mubarak's 3 million-member National Democratic Party to retake momentum from protesters demanding Egypt's nearly 30-year ruler step down immediately.
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The army separated about 20 Mubarak supporters from about 1,000 pro-democracy protesters in Tahrir Square, but the Mediterranean city of Alexandria saw clashes erupt between several hundred protesters and government supporters early Wednesday, Al-Jazeera television footage showed.
Several thousand people outside Mustafa Mahmoud Mosque in the upper-class neighborhood of Mohandiseen waved Egyptian flags and carried a large printed banner with Mubarak's face. Many passing cars honked in apparent support.
Police officers surrounded the area and directed traffic.
The April 6 group, young pro-democracy activists who have used social media and mobile phones to draw people to Tahrir Square, said Mubarak's speech would not satisfy them.
Click here for full Jpost coverage of unrest in EgyptClick here for full Jpost coverage of unrest in Egypt
"We will continue our protests in Tahrir Square and around the country until the people's demands are met,'" the group said in a statement sent to The Associated Press. "The people want ouster of the regime."
In his 10-minute televised address to the nation Tuesday night, the 82-year-old Mubarak appeared somber but spoke firmly and without an air of defeat. He insisted that even if the protests demanding his ouster had never broken out, he would not have sought a sixth term in September.
He said he would serve out the rest of his term working "to accomplish the necessary steps for the peaceful transfer of power." He said he will carry out amendments to rules on presidential elections.
Mubarak, a former air force commander, vowed not to flee the country.
"This is my dear homeland," he said. "I have lived in it, I fought for it and defended its soil, sovereignty and interests. On its soil I will die. History will judge me and all of us."
The step came after heavy pressure from his top ally, the United States. Soon after Mubarak's address, US President Barack Obama said at the White House that he had spoken with Mubarak and "he recognizes that the status quo is not sustainable and a change must take place." Obama said he told Mubarak that an orderly transition must be meaningful and peaceful, must begin now and must include opposition parties.
Earlier, a visiting Obama envoy — former US ambassador to Egypt Frank Wisner, who is a friend of the Egyptian president — met with Mubarak and made clear to him that it is the US "view that his tenure as president is coming to a close," according to an administration official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the delicacy of the ongoing diplomacy.
The United States has been struggling to find a way to ease Mubarak out of office while maintaining stability in Egypt, a key ally in the Mideast that has a 30-year-old peace treaty with Israel and has been a bulwark against Islamic militancy.
Mubarak would be the second Arab leader pushed from office by a popular uprising in the history of the modern Middle East, following the ouster last month of the president of Tunisia — another North African nation.