Mubarak leaves Cairo as protesters march towards presidential palace (Roundup)

Friday, February 11, 2011

CARO/WASHINGTON - Embattled Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak left Cairo Friday as protesters gathered in their thousands at the capital’s Tahrir Square marched towards the presidential palace, intensifying their demand for Mubark’s ouster.

Al Arabiya TV reported that Mubarak departed to the seaside resort of Sharm El Sheikh aboard a military plane. He was accompanied by the chief of staff of the armed forces, Lt. Gen. Sami Annan.

Other reports indicated that Mubarak has flown to an “unknown” destination.

The reports come as thousands of protesters, furious over Mubarak’s televised speech Thursday night, marched towards the presidential palace Friday.

The protesters holding demonstrations across the country since Jan 25 refused to accept the power transition plan announced by Mubarak Thursday night following a meeting of the Egyptian military’s supreme council.

The 82-year-old leader who has ruled the country for 30 years reiterated his Feb 1 statement, saying that he will quit power but not before the next general election to be held in September.

“I have expressed with all clarity my intention not to stand in forthcoming elections,” Mubarak said.

“I will not accept to be dictated orders from the outside no matter what the source is and no matter what the justifications are,” he said, responding to calls from world leaders to step down.

The protesters who were expecting Mubarak’s resignation Thursday night, vowed to continue with their demand as soon as his 17-minute televised address ended.

On the 18th day of their demonstration Friday, they decided to march towards the presidential palace in a show of solidarity.

The Egytian army said that it “confirms the lifting of the state of emergency as soon as the current circumstances end”, BBC reported.

The military endorsed the transfer of Mubarak’s powers to his vice president, Omar Suleiman, and guaranteed a free and fair elections, constitutional changes and “protection of the nation”.

The army also urged “the need to resume orderly work in the government installations and a return to normal life to preserve the interests and property of our great people”.

Despite assurances from the miltary, the Muslim Brotherhood and leading opposition figure Mohammed ElBaradei called on Egyptians to continue their protests till Mubarak quits, DPA reported.

“Continue your revolution no matter how long it takes, and whatever the sacrifices are,” the Brotherhood, Egypt’s largest opposition group, said in a statement Friday.

The Brotherhood said it is still open to dialogue with the government, but that negotiations cannot succeed until Mubarak gets “serious” about reform.

“While we express our openness to dialogue, we also re-assert the public’s demands, which must be met before any serious negotiations leading to a new government,” said a statement on its website.

According to DPA, ElBaradei has also called on protesters to continue their strike on the streets.

“Entire nation is on the streets. Only way out is for regime to go. People power can’t be crushed. We shall prevail. Still hope army can join,” the Nobel laureate wrote on Twitter.

The military supreme council said Thursday that it has “decided to remain in continuous session to consider what procedures and measures that may be taken to protect the nation and aspirations of Egyptian people”.

As Mubarak clung to power sparking more protests, US President Barack Obama mounted pressure on the embattled regime asking “to move swiftly to explain the changes”.

Asserting that Mubarak has not convinced the Egyptian people that his handover of powers “is immediate, meaningful or sufficient”, he asked the Cairo regime “to spell out in clear and unambiguous language” the process that will lead to democracy.

“Too many Egyptians remain unconvinced that the government is serious about a genuine transition to democracy, and it is the responsibility of the government to speak clearly to the Egyptian people and the world,” Obama said in a statement.

“We believe that the universal rights of the Egyptian people must be respected, and their aspirations must be met,” Obama said, clearing siding with the demonstrators.”

Shortly after Mubarak spoke, Egypt’s ambassador to the US, Sameh Shoukry, told CNN: “The vice president is the de facto president.”

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