Hosni Mubarak — struggling to cling on as Egypt’s president in the face of unprecedented protests over poverty, corruption and oppression — said on Thursday he would transfer powers to his vice president.
In an address that failed to meet demands by protesters for him to step down immediately, Mubarak, 82, appeared to step aside by handing over the reins of power to his deputy, Omar Suleiman, a former intelligence chief trusted by Washington.
Suleiman, promoted to be Mubarak's deputy less than two weeks ago, is not widely popular.
Protesters in Tahrir Square waved their shoes in dismay at the speech, shouting "Down, Down, Hosni Mubarak," enraged by the fact that the president had not stepped down.
Mubarak repeated that he would not stand for the presidency in a September poll and said talks with the opposition, which would have been unthinkable before Jan. 25 when protests began, had led to preliminary consensus to resolve the crisis.
Egypt was heading to a peaceful transfer of power, the president repeated, stating that he believed in the honesty of the protesters' demands and intentions but underlining his rejection of foreign powers dictating events in his country.
For many, a key question is whether Suleiman might take over effective control from Mubarak — who might stay on in a figurehead role — or whether serving officers in the armed forces would move in instead, possibly declaring martial law.
Egypt's sprawling armed forces — the world's 10th biggest and more than 468,000 strong — have been at the heart of power since army officers overthrew the British-backed king in 1952.
Earlier in the day, the military high command took control of the nation in what some called a military coup after two weeks of unprecedented protests.
The armed forces, issuing what they labelled "Communique No.1," announced they were moving to preserve the nation and the aspirations of the people. But some in the crowd were quick to protest they did not want military rule.