Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak said on Tuesday he would surrender power in September, angering protesters who want an immediate end to his 30-year-rule.
The United States called for the transition of power to begin straight away, stopping short of endorsing Mubarak’s plan to stay in office for another six months.
“What is clear and what I indicated tonight to President Mubarak is my belief that an orderly transition must be meaningful, it must be peaceful and it must begin now,” President Barack Obama said after speaking to him by phone.
In the streets of Cairo, protesters whose numbers swelled above 1 million across Egypt on Tuesday, many renewed their calls for the 82-year-old leader to quit.
“We will not leave! He will leave!” some chanted.
A leading reformist figure, retired diplomat Mohammed ElBaradei, was quoted by CNN calling Mubarak’s move a “trick.”
Mubarak appealed over the heads of the urban demonstrators to the wider nation of 80 million. The “noble youths” who had begun protests, he said, had been exploited by men of violence.
Much may depend on the army, once Mubarak’s power base, which appears to be trying to ensure a transition of power that would maintain the influence of the armed forces.
Under evident pressure from Obama and the army as much as from the crowds on the streets, Mubarak delivered a composed 10-minute televised statement.
To those demanding he flee the country in the manner of his ousted Tunisian counterpart last month, Mubarak said: “This is my country … and I will die on its soil.”
But he would not give up power just yet: “I say in all honesty and regardless of the current situation that I did not intend to nominate myself for a new presidential term,” he said.
“I will work in the remaining months of my term to take the steps to ensure a peaceful transfer of power.”