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Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Egypt Crowds Unmoved by President Mubarak's Vow Not to Run

CAIRO -- President Hosni Mubarak defied a quarter-million protesters demanding he step down immediately, announcing Tuesday he would serve out the last months of his term and "die on Egyptian soil." He said he would not seek re-election, but that did not calm the public fury as clashes erupted between his opponents and supporters.

The 82-year-old Mubarak, who has ruled the country for nearly three decades, offered little protesters had sought after a dramatic day in which a quarter-million Egyptians staged their biggest demonstration yet. And he insisted he wouldn't have sought a fifth term in September even if the protests had never happened.

Mubarak's halfway concession - an end to his rule seven months down the road - threatened to inflame frustration and anger among protesters, who have been peaceful in recent days but have made clear they will not end their unprecedented week-old wave of demonstrations until he is out.

Soon after his speech, clashes erupted between protesters and government supporters in the Mediterranean city of Alexandria, and gunshots were heard, according to footage by Al-Jazeera television.

The speech was immediately derided by protesters in Cairo's Tahrir Square. Watching his speech on a giant TV, protesters booed and waved their shoes over their heads at his image in a sign of contempt. "Go, go, go! We are not leaving until he leaves," they chanted. One man screamed, "He doesn't want to say it, he doesn't want to say it."

In the 10-minute address, Mubarak appeared somber but spoke firmly and without an air of defeat. He said he would serve out the rest of his term working "to accomplish the necessary steps for the peaceful transfer of power. He said he will carry out amendments to rules on presidential elections.

Mubarak, a former air force commander, vowed not to flee the country. "This is my dear homeland ... I have lived in it, I fought for it and defended its soil, sovereignty and interests. On its soil I will die. History will judge me and all of us."

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