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Won't run for another term, says embattled Mubarak

Source: PTI
February 02, 2011 08:11 IST
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Facing unprecedented public protests for his ouster, embattled Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak has said he does not intend to run for another term after three decades in power but refused to bow out immediately.

The 82-year-old leader, facing the worst ever civil unrest during his rule, said he will ensure a "peaceful transition of power" after elections due in September this year.

"I do not intend to stand for election again. I will work during my remaining months as president to ensure that steps are taken to ensure the peaceful transition of power," Mubarak said on state television late on Tuesday night as close to one million Egyptians from diverse sections gathered into central Cairo's Tahrir Square in an unprecedented mammoth rally to press him to quit.

Watching his speech on a giant TV, protesters booed and shouted slogan "Go, go, go! We are not leaving until he leaves."

The anti-government protesters, determined but peaceful, jammed in shoulder-to-shoulder turning famed Tahrir, or Liberation, Square in Cairo into a sea of humanity in the "march of a million", hours after the powerful military showed signs of distancing itself from the besieged president vowing that it would not fire on the protesters.

Mubarak, however, lashed out at his detractors for "pouring fuel into the fire" and said his offer of dialogue has been rejected.

"We have been living very painful days together. The events of the past few days require us all -- people and leaders -- to make the choice between chaos and stability...," he said and concluded his speech by saying that he intends "to die in Egypt".

The protests in Egypt erupted close on the heels of the events in Tunisia, where a popular uprising ended the 23-year-reign of Zine El-Abidine Ben Ali.

Mubarak appeared on television on January 28 and sacked his government. He named Omar Suleiman, Egypt's military intelligence chief, as the country's new vice president but the protests only intensified.

His statement came late last night as he virtually lost the backing of his strongest ally -- the United States -- with President Barack Obama reportedly sending a message through an envoy to Mubarak not to run for another term.

As military helicopters hovered above, the mass of people in the biggest protests since street demonstrations broke out against Mubarak's rule last Tuesday held aloft posters denouncing the president, sang nationalist songs and chanted slogans "Go Mubarak Go" and "Leave! Leave! Leave!"

The crowd at the rally was very diverse -- young, old, religious, men in suits, women in conservative headscarves, unemployed graduates, students and teachers.

Cairo's international airport remained a scene of chaos as thousands of foreigners sought to flee. Soldiers at checkpoints set up the entrances of the square did nothing to stop the crowds from entering.

In a desperate bid to cling to power, Mubarak had earlier offered to open "immediate talks" with opposition groups.

Image: Egypt's President Mubarak appears on Egyptian State TV from Cairo in this still image taken from video

Photograph: Reuters

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