Cairo, Feb 11 (PTI) Embattled Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak today refused to step down amid growing speculations of his resignation, but said he had handed over some powers to his deputy and was "not embarrassed" to hold a dialogue with the country's youth.
In a televised address to the nation, 82-year-old Mubarak said, "We have started the dialogue that includes the youth who called for change as well as all political powers...we are going ahead with peaceful transition of power."However, there was no indication in the speech that Mubarak was planning to step down any time soon. "I said I would not run again for president.
I also said I would go ahead with my responsibility of protecting the constitution and the people until they elect a new president in next September. This is what I have sworn to do and will keep it to take Egypt to safety," he said.
"I have decided to delegate power to the vice president (Omar Suleiman) based on the constitution," Mubarak said, adding he had requested six articles of the constitution to be amended and one article to be cancelled.
His speech failed to appease protesters and was met with angry chants of "Down with Mubarak" among a strong crowd of 200,000 people in Cairo's Tahrir Square on the 17th day of massive nationwide anti-government protests.Many of the protesters called for an immediate general strike and angrily addressed the army, which had deployed large numbers of troops and tanks around the area.
Hopes about Mubarak's resignation had run high after the military leadership had announced hours earlier that it would step in to ensure the country's security and see that the people's "legitimate" demands were met.
In an apparent jibe at countries that have pushed him to accelerate the transition process to democracy, Mubarak said, "I have never bent to foreign diktats. I have always preserved peace and worked for Egypt and its stability."
The embattled president said the sacrifice of martyrs will not go in vain. "As for the martyrs we lost I have called for the formation of a fact finding mission to look into the causes and the results will be transferred to the prosecutor general to take action at once."
Seeking to establish a connect with the youth, he said: "The current moment is not about me, Hosni Mubarak, it is about Egypt and its future. All Egyptians are in the same rut and we have to go ahead with the dialogue with a spirit of a team and not those at differences."
A follow up committee had been formed to discuss constitutional amendments, Mubarak said, adding "these amendments aim to ease the conditions for presidential candidates, limited time in power for presidents as well as impose judicial supervision of elections."Scrambling to find ways out of the crisis, the regime has been announcing a slew of measures to initiate landmark Constitutional reforms.
After negotiations with the opposition parties,including the banned Muslim Brotherhood, the government had agreed on setting up a committee to study and suggest by first week of March constitutional amendments, mainly on limiting the terms of a president and on who can contest for the top post.
The government also announced a 15 per cent hike in salaries and pensions in its latest attempt to calm the demonstrators who are demanding an end to Mubarak's
30-year-old autocratic rule.
Meanwhile, Egypt's close ally, the US, has expressed its complete dissatisfaction over the steps taken by the Egyptian government so far to meet the demands of the
pro-democracy protesters and warned that the anti-regime demonstrations are going to grow bigger unless Mubarak takes some concrete steps.
"It is clear that the Egyptian government is going to have to take some real concrete steps in order to meet the threshold that the people of Egypt that they represent require from their government," White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said. PTI