Cairo/Washington: Trouble reigned in the Egyptian capital Wednesday as violent
clashes erupted between pro- and anti-government protesters, with
dozens reported injured, after President Hosni Mubarak said he
would not quit till September, defying the call of millions of his
Three hours after Mubarak's announcement, US President Barack
Obama said firmly that the transition must "begin now".
Thousands of people from the two sides attacked each other with
sticks and rocks, with some reports of knives being drawn and the
sound of gunfire. The clashes spilled over into side streets, with
some people being trampled as they tried to escape the chaos,
according to DPA.
Mubarak, 82, said in a 10-minute televised speech Tuesday night
that he would not run for presidency for another term and pledged
to ensure a smooth transfer of power after September.
"My main responsibility is to ensure stability, and in the next
few months I will work on the country's stability," he said.
Mubarak, who is a former air chief, said: "I am a military man who
served this country during war and peace and I will die on the
soil of Egypt."
The dramatic announcement only spurred trouble in Cairo, where
hundreds of thousands of protesters had gathered at Tahrir Square
for a 'march of a million', demanding Mubarak's removal following
eight days of unrest across the country.
As determined demonstrators continued to press for the ouster of
Mubarak, protests supporting the president were also growing in
Opposition protesters accused the ruling National Democratic Party
(NDP) of having paid thugs and police officers posing as civilians
to confront them and "liberate Tahrir Square with blood".
The military, stationed at checkpoints around the square, appeared
to be trying without success to calm the situation. There were
unconfirmed reports of pro-government demonstrators having taken
control of armoured military vehicles.
Soldiers detained several people and were calling on people to go
home. The military also called on NDP supporters to refrain from
attacking the protesters who have been calling on Mubarak to step
down, DPA reported.
Crews from broadcaster Al-Arabiya and other foreign media said
they were attacked by the pro-government camp.
Egyptian newspaper al-Masri al-Youm, meanwhile, said it was
evacuating its offices after the headquarters of another
independent daily was ransacked.
Mubarak got only jeers for his speech from the many thousands,
participating in the massive people's uprising.
"The speech is useless and only inflames our anger," Al-Jazeera
quoted a protester, Shadi Morkos, as saying in Tahrir Square.
The Egyptian Army, which had refused to use force against the
demonstrators, stepped in Wednesday to ask them to return home for
the sake of stability of the country, reported DPA.
Train services continued to be cut but internet service were back
Responding to Mubarak's televised announcement, Egyptian leader
and former head of the International Atomic Energy Agency Mohammed
ElBaradei said that Mubarak's speech did not meet the people's
demand and asked for more immediate action.
The opposition Muslim Brotherhood has also dismissed Mubarak's
offer. Mohammed Mursi, a spokesman for the Muslim Brotherhood,
said: "This satisfies none of the people's demands."
US President Obama warned of "difficult days ahead" and said the
transition in Egypt, the US' steadfast ally in the region, must
"We've borne witness to the beginning of new chapter in the
history of a great country and a long-time partner of the United
States," Obama said in a brief statement from Washington.
Obama said Mubarak "recognises that the status quo is not
sustainable and a change must take place".
Repeating earlier calls for an orderly transition in Egypt from
Mubarak's nearly three decades of autocratic rule to a fully
representative democracy, Obama said the transition "must be
meaningful, it must be peaceful and it must begin now".
"Furthermore, the process must include a broad spectrum of
Egyptian voices and opposition parties," Obama said.
"It should lead to elections that are free and fair. And it should
result in a government that's not only grounded in democratic
principles but is also responsive to the aspirations of the
As the world remained glued to the unfolding drama, opposition
parties in Egypt took their most concrete step yet towards
developing an agenda, issuing a list of demands to the existing
power structures to form a basis for negotiations.
The first item demanded that Mubarak "and his regime" step down.
Secondly, a transitional leadership should be formed, and a
committee established to write a new constitution. Finally,
parliament, dominated by Mubarak's National Democratic Party,
should be dissolved.
The list was sent to Vice President Omar Suleiman, the former head
of the national intelligence agency, who has said he would open a
dialogue with "all political parties".
Mubarak had overhauled his government Monday in an attempt to
defuse the protest against his regime, but protesters rejected the
Poverty is rife among Egypt's 80 million people, nearly half of
whom are below the age of 35.