Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Mubarak will leave, just not by Friday.

Egypt's President Hosni Mubarak disappointed a quarter-million protesters Tuesday demanding that he step down immediately, announcing he will serve the last seven months of his term and "die on Egyptian soil."

Mubarak promised not to see re-election, but that did not calm the public's fury as clashes erupted between Mubarak opponents and supporters. The move threatens to inflame frustration and anger among protesters, who remained quiet until last week.

Al-Jazeera television has shown footage of days-long protests by Egyptians from all walks of life. The protesters threw stones at rivals and police, wielded weapons, looted banks, businesses and homes and set government buildings on fire.

In the 10-minute address, the 82-year-old president spoke firmly and without defeat. He insisted he would not have sought a sixth term in September even if the protests never happened. Mubarak, a former air force commander, vowed not to flee the country. "This is my dear homeland...I have lived in it, I fought for it, and defended its soil, sovereignty and interests. On it's 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. President Barack Obama said a change must take place and transition must be meaningful and peaceful, beginning now, including opposition parties.

The official death toll stands at 97, with thousands injured, though witness reports have indicated a far higher toll. 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.

The movement to drive Mubarak out has been built on the work of online activists and fueled by deep frustration with an autocratic regime blamed for ignoring the needs of the poor and allowing corruption and official abuse to run rampant. After years of tight state control, protesters emboldened by the Tunisia unrest took to the streets on Jan. 25 and mounted a once-unimaginable series of protests across this nation of 80 million.

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