Egypt's Mubarak delegates some powers, refuses to step down

CAIRO - (AP) - Egypt's Hosni Mubarak refused to step down or leavethe country and instead handed most of his powers to his vicepresident Thursday, enraging protesters who warned the countrycould explode in violence and pleaded for the military to takeaction to push him out. The rapidly moving events raised the question of whether a rifthad opened between Mubarak and the military command over thespiraling mass uprising demanding the president go. Hours earlier,a council of the military's top generals announced it had steppedin to secure the country, and a senior commander announced toprotesters in Tahrir Square that all their demands would soon bemet, raising cries of victory that Mubarak was on his way out. Several hundred thousand had packed into Tahrir Square, ecstaticwith expectation that Mubarak would announce his resignation in hisnighttime address. Instead, they watched in shocked silence as hespoke, holding their foreheads in anger and disbelief. Some brokeinto tears. Others waved their shoes in the air in contempt. Afterthe speech, they broke into chants of "Leave, leave, leave." Organizers called for even larger protests on Friday. AfterMubarak's speech, around 2,000 marched on the state televisionheadquarters several blocks away from Tahrir, guarded by themilitary with barbed wire and tanks. "They are the liars," thecrowd shouted, pointing at the building, chanting, "We won'tleave, they will leave." Prominent reform advocate, Nobel Peace laureate MohamedElBaradei, whose supporters were among the organizers of the17-day-old wave of protests, issued a Tweet warning, "Egypt willexplode." "The army must save the country now," he said. "I call on theEgyptian army to immediately interfere to rescue Egypt. Thecredibility of the army is on the line." Hours before Mubarak's speech, the military made moves that hadall the markings of a coup. The military's Supreme Council, headed by Defense Minister FieldMarshal Hussein Tantawi, announced on state TV that it was inpermanent session, a status that it takes only in times of war. Itsaid it was exploring "what measures and arrangements could bemade to safeguard the nation, its achievements and the ambitions ofits great people." That suggested Tantawi and his generals werenow in charge of the country. President Barack Obama appeared dismayed by Mubarak'sannouncement. He said in a statement that it was not clear that an"immediate, meaningful" transition to democracy was taking placeand warned that too many Egyptians are not convinced that thegovernment is serious about making genuine change.

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