President Mubarak Tells Defiant Egyptians That Government Will Resign
President Obama says he spoke to Mubarak and said "There must be reform."
CAIRO, Egypt Jan. 28, 2011— -- As defiant Egyptian protesters laid siege to government buildings and took to the streets to protest against the government, President Hosni Mubarak announced he has asked his government to resign.
The embattled president, who has run Egypt for the last 30 years, spoke for the first time since mass demonstrations broke out on Tuesday. Although many of the demonstrators demanded he step down, the 82-year-old Mubarak gave no indication that he will relinquish his post.
President Obama said tonight that he spoke to Mubarak after the Egyptian president spoke to his country and vowed to lay the groundwork for reforms to tackle the economy, unemployment and poverty in the country.
Obama said he told Mubarak "you have a responsibility to bring meaning to those words" and to make his promises come true.
He also called on the Egyptian to end its blockage of cell phones and the Internet, lecturing Mubarak that his people "have rights that are universal, rights to peaceful assembly... free speech and the right to determine their own destiny."
"There must be reform," Obama said bluntly, and at another point warned that the "U.S. will stand up for rights of Egyptian people."
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Mubarak's appearance on Egyptian television was a remarkable turnaround from Tuesday when the protests began and appeared to pose little threat to the regime.
"These demonstrations shouldn't have happened, because of the big gaps in freedom that were given," Mubarak said, according to a rough translation of his address to the nation. "As the president of this country and with all the power that the Constitution has given me, I assure you that I'm working for the people and giving freedoms of opinions, as long as we are respecting the law."
Mubarak appealed for calm, saying there's a "fine line between freedom and chaos."
"I am on the side of freedom of the people, but also of the security of Egypt. And I will not let anything happen that threatens the security of the country," he said.
Mubarak took to the camera after a tough crackdown by government forces that prompted the Obama administration to reconsider the $1.5 billion in aid it gives to Egypt.
But his speech is unlikely to appease the massive crowds, angry and frustrated at the country's dire economic situation, high food prices, rising unemployment and decades of corruption and poverty.
The U.S. made clear its disapproval of its ally's use of force to break up the massive protests, but administration officials refused to directly implicate President Hosni Mubarak, whose ouster is the focal point of this week's protests.
"Violence is not the response," White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said today. "A space has to be created to address those...very legitimate grievances."
The Egyptian government imposed a nationwide curfew tonight after a day of fierce clashes but protesters defied it and continued to pour out into the streets.
In Cairo, thousands of protesters, frustrated with high unemployment, hunger and corruption, poured out of mosques after Friday prayers chanting "out, out, out." They were met with by armored vehicles and police firing a barrage of rubber bullets, tear gas and water cannons. But the crowds, seething with anger, were unrelenting and retaliated by throwing rocks at the police.
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