Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Unmoved by Mubarak's Speech, Egyptian Protesters Insist: 'He Must Leave.'

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Unmoved by Mubarak's Speech, Egyptian Protesters Insist: 'He Must Leave.'

Article excerpt

Responding to Egyptian President Mubarak's offer to not run for reelection in September, one protester in Cairo's Tahrir Square said: 'Thirty years of injustice is enough. We don't need eight more months.'

Egyptians wholeheartedly rejected President Hosni Mubarak's announcement Tuesday evening that he will not run for reelection in September, continuing to demand that he step down immediately.

A roar of anger went up from the thousands of people in central Cairo's Tahrir Square even before the president had finished his address, offering an immediate answer to an unprecedented offer from an autocrat who has ruled for almost 30 years with few concession to the people. They shook their shoes at a large screen where the president's image was broadcast, screaming "Get out! Get out!"

"I was angry, but now I am enraged," said Abdullah Rawaq, shouting to be heard amid a crowd chanting: "He must go! We will not go!"

"Only one thing will make the anger go away: His immediate withdrawal. He must leave. That is the only thing that will make these people go back to their homes," said Mr. Rawaq, a middle-aged man.

The president's move appeared a desperate attempt to stop the week of growing protests that have brought the nation's capital and its economy to a standstill. Inspired by Tunisia's popular revolution in January, Egyptians began protesting last week, demanding freedom, democracy, and Mubarak's resignation. The gatherings swelled to hundreds of thousands of people today, and the president is clearly feeling the pressure.

Mubarak: 'I will die on Egyptian soil'

His decision not to run for reelection echoes the same move by Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali, Tunisia's now-deposed president. Mr. Ben Ali announced Jan. 13 that he would not seek reelection, but Tunisians spurned his offer and he fled to Saudi Arabia the following day.

Mubarak, however, gave a clear signal that he does not intend to follow Ben Ali into political exile.

"The Hosni Mubarak who speaks to you today is proud of his achievements over the years in serving Egypt and its people," he said in an address broadcast on state television. "This is my country. This is where I lived, I fought and defended its land, sovereignty, and interests, and I will die on its soil."

But Egyptians are pledging a similar fate for their president as they plan more massive protests for Friday.

"The age of Mubarak will end on Friday. It will be his last day," said Ibrahim Toma, a protester in his 20s. "The poor don't want him. The rich don't want him. The Christians don't want him. The Muslims don't want him. What is he waiting for?"

He said Mubarak is afraid to leave for fear of prosecution. Tunisia recently issued an arrest warrant for Ben Ali, and the European Union has frozen his bank assets.

"Mubarak is afraid to go because of everything he stole from the people, because of all the people he killed here in Tahrir Square and in Suez," said Mr. …

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