CAIRO - President Hosni Mubarak announced Tuesday that he would not run for reelection in a presidential vote set for September, but he vowed to remain in power until a successor is chosen.
In a televised speech to the nation, Mubarak said he would work hard in his remaining months in office to transfer power peacefully to a new elected president.
The former air force commander, who has ruled Egypt for nearly 30 years, made the commitments in response to more than a week of anti-government protests that have rocked the country of more than 80 million people.
But it is not immediately clear whether his pledge not to run again would appease protesters, who have demanded his immediate departure.
Through a special envoy, President Obama has urged Mubarak, 82, not to run in the September presidential election, U.S. news media reported Tuesday. The envoy, Frank Wisner, a retired diplomat and former U.S. ambassador to Egypt, told Mubarak that the United States sees his presidency as coming to a close and urged him to prepare for an orderly transition to genuine democracy through free elections, according to the Associated Press. The story was first reported by the New York Times.
The speech came after hundreds of thousands of cheering demonstrators packed this capital city's central plaza Tuesday, triumphantly predicting that their week-old pro-democracy movement was on the verge of ousting Mubarak.
Unlike last week's demonstrations, when police clashed violently with protesters, the atmosphere in jam-packed Tahrir Square was almost carnival-like. Flag-waving demonstrators held signs that read "Game over" and "checkmate." Groups of protesters chanted, "Mubarak, wake up! Today is your last!"
Several demonstrators carried a fake coffin marked with the name "Hosni Mubarak." When a huge banner was strung up between two lamp posts, declaring, "Get Out," people cheered. Together, two men held up an Egyptian flag with writing on it. In English, it said, "Get out. OK." In Arabic, it said, "Mubarak doesn't understand Arabic."
Protesters called on the Obama administration to explicitly back their cause, and to help them force Mubarak out.
In Washington, a State Department spokesman said the U.S. ambassador to Egypt, Margaret Scobey, spoke Tuesday with opposition leader Mohamed ElBaradei "as part of our public outreach to convey support for orderly transition in Egypt."
Obama's reported message to Mubarak urging him not to run again contrasted sharply with the White House's characterization of its position in a news briefing Monday.
Read more at The Washington Post.