Egypt's President Hosni Mubarak has announced he will not stand down until elections have been held in September. In a televised address, the president said he refused to be the subject of foreign pressure. President Mubarak said he will hand over some powers to Vice President Omar Suleiman.
The president said those responsible for violence will be punished, vowing “the blood of the martyrs has not be spilled in vain”. He promised to scrap emergency laws, which have been in place for 30 years, as soon as the situation in Egypt is stable. He called the demands of the people of Egypt legitimate and promised to fulfil his promises.
The mood on Tahrir Square, which was jubilant in anticipation of the president's possible resignation, changed to anger. Protestors began chanting, "He must go, he must go" and began waving shoes in the air - an insult in Arab culture.
RNW journalist Hans Jaap Melissen at Tahrir Square expects the mass demonstrations to continue, but he says the demonstrators will have to change their tactics. There are fears that the regime may be planning a clampdown on the demonstrations.
In a speech after the presidential address, Vice President Suleiman urged the demonstrators to go home and go back to their jobs. Ominously, he reiterated a warning to those with "foreign agendas", who he blames for last week's deadly clashes, saying he would not "allow those with foreign agendas to be among us".
Rumours spread earlier this evening that the resignation of the president was possibly imminent after Egypt's military announced earlier it was taking measures to preserve the nation and aspirations of the people. The Higher Army Council held an ongoing meeting without President Mubarak throughout the evening to assess the situation.
Speaking in Michigan, President Barack Obama said earlier:
"We are watching history unfold." In the most direct endorsement of the movement for a change of regime in Egypt so far, President Obama said, "America will continue to do everything that we can to support an orderly and genuine transition to democracy in Egypt."
The 82-year-old president had come under increasing pressure to end his 30-year rule, following more than two weeks of widespread protests against poverty, repression and corruption.
On Thursday, pro-democracy protesters demonstrated outside Cairo's parliament building. During the evening, hundreds of thousands of elated protesters poured into Tahrir Square, which has been at the heart of the demonstrations in the past two weeks. Al Jazeera reports there were three million people on the square.
Lasting, democratic change
Significantly Egyptian state television began showing footage of the demonstrations on Tahrir Square on Thursday evening shortly before Mubarak's speech, but when the mood changed, state television stopped broadcasting the scenes at the square.