In his first public appearance in four days of violent protests against his rule, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak said after midnight Friday, Jan. 28, he would not resign, but had asked the cabinet to step down, would form a new government Saturday and promised democratic reforms. The protests, Mubarak charged, were part of a plot to destabilize Egypt and destroy his own legitimacy. As he spoke, dozens of army tanks massed in Cairo's central Tahrir Square.
President Barack Obama then confirmed at the White House that he had called the Egyptian for the first time since the crisis erupted last Tuesday and told him he must deliver on his pledges for a better democracy and greater economic opportunities.
In his speech, Mubarak defended the hated security forces' actions against the protesters. While promising to fix the economy and provide more freedoms and jobs, he said this would come through national dialogue, not chaos. The Egyptian president said he had a duty not to let anything happen to threaten the country's peace and security or permit terrorism.
debkafile: The coming hours will see how the protest movement responds to Mubarak's decision to hold on to power in defiance of their main rallying cry and how the army conducts itself as thousands of protesters defy the nationwide curfew decree. So far, they have not fired the machine guns on their tanks and the soldiers were welcomed although there were some cases of hostility.
According to some sources, tanks are surrounding the British and US embassies.
After announcing that US aid to Egypt would be reviewed in the light of "unfolding events," Obama laid down five conditions for Mubarak to stay on as president with US support:
1. Egyptian military and security forces must be restrained from violence against civilians. The US would defend the rights to freedom of assembly and speech everywhere.
2. Mubarak must deliver on his pledges of reforms for a better democracy and greater economic opportunities;
3. He must hold a dialogue with the opponents of his regime and abandon the use of force;
4. The shutdown of Internet and other services must be reversed.
Before Obama communicated with Mubarak, his administration was generally seen to have abandoned the Egyptian president as a write-off and thrown its support behind the protesters.
"The situation must be solved by the Egyptian people which deserves to have its universal rights respected," said White House spokesman Robert Gibbs when asked if the administration supported its pro-Western Arab ally. President Barack Obama had not spoken to President Mubarak since the crisis began, Gibbs said, stressing that it was up to the Egyptian government to "immediately address the legitimate grievances of the Egyptian people by reforms – not violence. Military and security forces must act with restraint."
Gibbs warned that US aid to Egypt would be reviewed in the light of unfolding events.
The Egyptian president is clearly on trial in Washington as well as at home. It is not clear if he can survive both tests.