The Egyptian ambassador to the United States says Vice President Omar Suleiman is the “de facto head of state” of Egypt after President Hosni Mubarak stopped short of stepping down on a tumultuous day.
Mubarak earlier infuriated hundreds of thousands of protesters demanding he step down, saying he won’t take orders from outside in a televised address.
“Down with Mubarak, leave, leave!” thousands of protesters shouted afterwards.
Afterwards, reports on Twitter said people were marching on the Presidential Palace in anger. Tweets said the army was not impeding their progress and was even withdrawing from its positions – but SBS could not confirm this at the time of writing.
Other reports said thousands were already camping by the palace, with a peaceful atmosphere prevailing.
Mubarak announced five constitutional amendments, as wild and angry chants swelled in the square, adding that he would transfer some responsibilities to Vice President Omar Suleiman.
Suleiman said he will open dialogue to allow opposition parties in, Al Jazeera reported.
Following the speech, Ambassador to the US Sameh Shoukry told CNN the president indicated clearly he was transferring all his presidential authority to the vice president, AAP reported.
The envoy said he called CNN to clear up any confusion over what the president said, following widespread condemnation of Mubarak’s decision not to step down.
There is again expectation that Friday prayers will provide the catalyst to a day of protests and anger directed at the president.
Commentators said the military’s response will be key. “Egyptian army, the choice is now, the regime or the people!”, protesters shouted after the speech, in a quasi-revolution where the army has repeatedly avoided taking sides.
Leading Egyptian dissident Mohamed ElBaradei proposed that a three-person national unity government succeed President Hosni Mubarak and his deputy, and steer Egypt to democracy.
In an interview with Foreign Policy Magazine, ElBaradei said the US-backed transition process led by Vice President Omar Suleiman will fail to take the country to democracy unless “we keep kicking their behinds.”