Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak has said he will not run for a new term in office in September elections and will work during the rest of his term for a “peaceful transfer of power” in a new attempt to defuse massive protests demanding his immediate ousting.
In a speech shown on state TV, Mubarak said: “In all sincerity, regardless of the current circumstances, I never intended to be a candidate for another term.” He said he would work during “the final months of my current term” to carry out the “necessary steps for the peaceful transfer of power”.
He rejected demands that he step down immediately and leave the country, vowing to die on Egypt’s soil. He also said he would bring in amendments to rules on presidential elections.
But the half-way concession – an end to his rule months down the road – was immediately derided by protesters massed in Cairo’s main central square.
Watching his speech on a giant TV set up in Tahrir square, protesters booed and waved their shoes over the heads in a sign of contempt.
“Go, go, go! We are not leaving until he leaves,” they chanted, and one man screamed: “He doesn’t want to say it, he doesn’t want to say it.”
The 82-year-old Mubarak, who has ruled the country for nearly three decades, insisted that his decision not to run had nothing to do with the unprecedented protests that have shaken Egypt the past week.
Mubarak, a former air force commander, resolutely vowed not to flee the country, saying: “This dear nation .. is where I lived, I fought for it and defended its soil, sovereignty and interests. On its soil I will die. History will judge me like it did others.”
It comes after more than 250,000 people joined a mass protest in Cairo’s main square in the largest event yet in a week of unrelenting demands for President Mubarak to leave after nearly 30 years in power.
Soldiers at checkpoints set up at the entrances of the square did nothing to stop the crowds from entering, a day after the military vowed not to fire on protesters.