On the ground in Cairo

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Marco Werman: I'm Marco Werman this is The World, a coproduction of the BBC World service, PRI, and WGBH in Boston. Hosni Mubarak has agreed to go but not just yet. The Egyptian President addressed the nation on state television this evening. He said he does not intend to be a candidate in Egypt's next elections in September. Mubarak criticized the massive protest against his nearly 30 year regime. He said those protests began as a civilized phenomenon but they turned into a violent event controlled by political cowards. The World's Matthew Bell is in Cairo. Matthew it's been a very fast moving day in Egypt culminating in Mubarak's talk to the nation this evening. Give us the main points of what he said.

Matthew Bell: The headline Marco was what we were expecting and that is that Mubarak will not run for another term. Elections are set for later this year in the fall and that was, that was sort of the buzz before Mubarak appeared on the television screen. You know he's someone that has been quoted as saying I have a Ph.D. in being stubborn. So it might not come as a surprise to, to many people here in Egypt that, you know, he's not gonna just cut and run when, when a bunch of demonstrators show up in Cairo and other cities around the country.

Werman: A Ph.D. in stubborn, he's also got a reputation as being a very proud man. How did he look?

Bell: As far I've seen, seen speeches of him it, the same you know, very steady, very serious, stern, strong. He's a military guy; you know he has that sort of bearing and that, and that was all there. Some of the other themes that he has, he has hit on, not just since these demonstrations began but, but over the years of his 30 year, his 30 year rule over the country, they were there as well. An important, an important part of this, this statement here was he said there are some forces who are trying to destabilize Egypt and he will deal with them firmly. Now Egyptians will understand that very clearly to mean the Muslim brotherhood.

Werman: Mm.

Bell: The Islamists group that is outlawed in Egypt. That's something that, that Mubarak has, has told especially the West including the United States that he is the man to, to keep the Islamists in check. People here tell me that that is overblown and that the Muslim brotherhood in fact is, is not, you know what Mubarak says it is.

Werman: Well Matthew let's listen to one key part of Mubarak's comments.

Hosni Mubarak: My first responsibility right now is to regain calm and stability in our home country to ensure the peaceful transition of leadership and to ensure, and to ensure that the responsibility goes very peacefully to whoever the people of Egypt choose in the next election. I did not intend to stand again and I am now very determined to make sure that whatever that I do I finish my duty keeping the peace in Egypt.

Werman: President Hosni Mubarak speaking through a translator tonight in a state address in Egypt. Matthew Bell in Cairo uh, keeping the peace in Egypt, is this what the demonstrators wanted to hear?

Bell: Well absolutely not. You know I, I've been walking around in these demonstrations for days now and you know I've seen evidence myself of, of the fierce battles that took place last week culminating in, on Friday. I saw shotgun shell casings on the street. You know pictures of people injured, shot with shotgun pellets or people coming up to me with, you know, holding up live rounds. Just, just to show what they're saying that the government thinks of them. So, so no. You know another, another thing that Mubarak did that people here thought he might, he might do, or rather something he did not do that is, he stopped short of giving responsibility to his Vice President Omar Suleiman. What's significant about the Vice Presidency is he's never had one. He named one in recent days. People thought maybe as a way to, as a concession to the demonstrators he would say explicitly that he would give power to the Vice President but he didn't do that.

Werman: The World's Matthew Bell in Cairo, thanks very much for the update.

Bell: You're welcome Marco.

Werman: We have a remarkable slide show of images Matthew shot for us from today's massive protest in Tahrir Square. You can find that at theworld.org.