Mubarak Delivers Defiant, Confusing Speech
ROBERT SIEGEL, Host:
From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Robert Siegel.
MELISSA BLOCK, Host:
After a day of building excitement and anticipation in Egypt, tonight disappointment and outrage on the streets. President Hosni Mubarak had been widely expected to step down, but that is not what he announced in a speech late tonight on state television. Mubarak repeated his promise that he would not run again for president in September elections. He added this, as we heard it through an interpreter on Al Jazeera English.
P: (Through interpreter) And I also announce that I will similarly remain adamant to continue to shoulder my responsibility, protecting the constitution, safeguarding the interest of the people until the authority and power is handed over to this - to be elected by the people in September coming.
BLOCK: Well, joining us now from Cairo is NPR's Eric Westervelt to help sort all this out. And, Eric, why don't you describe the reaction among the huge crowd gathered there in Tahrir Square, as it became clear that President Mubarak wasn't stepping down as president.
ERIC WESTERVELT: Many, many people in the square that I talked to reacted really with visceral anger and they felt - they were really stunned. They thought tonight was going to be a very different historic night and that this would be a change of power and they didn't get that at all.
BLOCK: And there were scenes all through the day of just jubilation and dancing and a lot of slogans that this was their moment of freedom. So the notion that power has been transferred to the vice president does nothing to fulfill those goals, I take it.
WESTERVELT: And people also, that I talked to, felt that he had a sort of patronizing, condescending attitude tonight. He sort of referred to people as, you know - I'm speaking to my sons and daughters, and you've done good, I'm proud of you but now it's time to go home. And many people felt like he still does not get our core demand.
BLOCK: Eric, I want to play you some tape from Egypt's ambassador to the U.S., who called in to CNN tonight. Let's take a listen.
BLOCK: The president has transferred his authority under article 82 of the constitution to the vice president, to undertake all presidential authority that is incorporated in the constitution.
BLOCK: And, Eric, I gather from what you're saying, for the protestors there in Tahrir Square, that's window dressing, it means nothing at all?
WESTERVELT: Also importantly, I think, Melissa, Mubarak's vice president, Omar Suleiman, who he selectively transferred some powers to, went on TV right after this event. He again blamed this revolt on foreign interference, on foreign media. He called on the protestors to go home and get back to work, and I think somewhat ominously, warned protestors of the, quote, dangers surrounding you.
BLOCK: And, Eric, any sign that those protestors are heeding that warning to go home?
WESTERVELT: Well, the square has gotten smaller tonight. Some people are going home for the evening. But they're really vowing that tomorrow will be a mass demonstration and that they may take the demonstration and protests to different areas of the city to try to get their message across.
BLOCK: OK. NPR's Eric Westervelt in Cairo. Eric, thanks so much.
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