CAIRO: Egypt’s powerful military Thursday night said it has started taking “necessary measures to protect the nation” and support the “legitimate demands” of the people, amid reports that embattled President, Mr Hosni Mubarak may step down soon and transfer power to his deputy, Mr Omar Suleiman.
As the protest against Mr Mubarak’s 30-year rule entered the 17th day Thursday, Mr Hossan Badrawi, secretary general of the National Democratic Party (NDP), said he “hopes” that Mr Mubarak, 82, will transfer power to Vice-President, Mr Omar Suleiman.
“I expect the President to respond to the demands of the people because what matters to him in the end is the stability of the country. The post is not important to him,” Mr Badrawi told BBC.
The Supreme Council of Egyptian Armed Forces convened a meeting in response to the current political turmoil after which a statement was issued. Thursday’s meeting was chaired by Defence Minister, Mr Mohamed Tantawi, rather than Mr Mubarak, who as President would normally have chaired the meeting.
“Based on the responsibility of the armed forces and its commitment to protect the people and its keenness to protect the nation… And in support of the legitimate demands of the people (the army) will continue meeting on a continuous basis to examine measures to be taken to protect the nation and its gains and the ambitions of the great Egyptian people,” the statement which was read out on the state TV after other programmes were interrupted.
The statement of the military was met with a roar of approval of the vast crowds at Tahrir Square, the main hub of the anti-Mubarak protest in the heart of the capital. Earlier, top Egyptian army commander Hassan al-Roweni told protesters at the Square that “everything you want will be realised.”
Earlier, Prime Minister Mr Ahmed Shafiq said the scenario of President Mr Mubarak stepping down was being discussed. He told Egyptian television Thursday that “everything is in President Hosni Mubarak’s hands.” He said, “Everything (is) being studied by the supreme council of the armed forces is being communicated to the commander of the armed forces,” apparently referring to the embattled Egyptian President, who is the commander in chief. Mr Badrawi said Mr Mubarak would “most probably” speak to the nation soon.