Mubarak addresses nation, calls on government to resign but vows to remain in power himself

Riot police clash with protesters Wednesday in Cairo. Thousands of Egyptians defied a ban on protests.
Riot police clash with protesters Wednesday in Cairo. Thousands of Egyptians defied a ban on protests. (Goran Tomasevic)
Washington Post Foreign Service
Friday, January 28, 2011; 6:33 PM

CAIRO - Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak demanded the resignation of his government early Saturday but vowed to remain in power himself in defiance of massive demonstrations calling for his departure.

Speaking on state television shortly after midnight, Mubarak lamented rioting and clashes with police that led him to deploy military units on the streets of the capital.

"I take responsibility for the security of this country and the citizens," he said, adding that he would not allow fear and chaos to take hold in this nation of more than 80 million people.

"I ask the government to resign today," he said. He said he would give the new government "very specific goals" to improve the lives of the people.

Mubarak spoke after military units deployed in the streets of Cairo and protesters attacked offices of the government and ruling party, with crowds of opposition demonstrators defying an overnight curfew.

In some parts of the capital, the protests appeared to grow more violent, and demonstrators looted and burned the headquarters of the ruling National Democratic Party, attempted to storm government buildings and attacked a police station. But in other parts, an apparently festive atmosphere prevailed, as demonstrators warmly greeted newly deployed army troops and urged them to join the protests. Unlike the police, the military did not appear to be battling the demonstrators.

By late night on Friday, police had largely abandoned the streets of the capital to the remaining bands of protesters.

By blaming the cabinet under Prime Minister Ahmed Nazif for the turmoil, Mubarak, 82, hoped to sidestep demands for his resignation after three decades of autocratic rule. He said he had asked the government to give the demonstrators the "space" they needed to voice their grievances and was "so sorry" to see protesters and police injured in clashes.

"There is a very thin line between freedom and chaos," he declared. "I am absolutely on the side of freedom for each citizen, and at the same time I am on the side of the security of Egypt. And I would not let anything dangerous happen that would threaten peace . . . and the future of the country."

Mubarak said he would not allow looting and arson, but he suggested that he would work toward "new steps for more democracy," more job opportunities and aid to the poor.

"We need to build on what we already have and to make a new future," he said. "What happened in the last few days puts fear in everybody's heart." He vowed to honor his "oath to protect Egypt."

In Washington, White House spokesman Robert Gibbs called on security forces and protesters to "refrain from violence" and said the administration would review U.S. aid to Egypt "based on events that take place in the coming days."

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