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Live Blog: Obama Says, 'The People of Egypt Have Spoken' Live Blog: Obama Says, 'The People of Egypt Have Spoken'

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EGYPT

Live Blog: Obama Says, 'The People of Egypt Have Spoken'

Follow this blog for the latest involving Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, Vice President Omar Suleiman, and more.

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Egyptian anti-government protesters celebrated in Cairo's Tahrir Square and elsewhere in the country after President Hosni Mubarak stepped down.(MOHAMMED ABED/AFP/Getty Images)

4:05 p.m.  Were the events in Egypt a bigger surprise yesterday or today for the White House?

"I think everyone was surprised a bit at yesterday," Gibbs said. "I was on the cautious side [yesterday], because I think it was clear that things were happening ... very quickly. It is remarkable to stand here, or to sit there or anywhere in our country, and watch what's happened over the span of that 18 days. It is a remarkable arc in human history."

 

4:04 p.m.  Democratic and Republican lawmakers overwhelmingly agree that the spread of democracy in the Middle East will benefit U.S. interests in the region, according to the results of this week's National Journal Congressional Insiders Poll.

3:58 p.m.  Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., chairman of the Senate Subcommittee on State Department and Foreign Operations, stressed that the United States has "vital interests" in the region.

"The challenges now facing the Egyptian people are formidable," he said in a statement. "The army will be decisive.  If it defends the popular will, it will earn its rightful place in history.  If the army violates the public’s trust, it would also be a blow to our relations with Egypt and would put at risk our long-standing assistance."

 

3:57 p.m. Since Mubarak's announcement today, Obama has not made any  calls to leaders or heads of state in the region, Gibbs said.

The government of Iran is now "scared" of the "will of its people," despite its "empty talk about Egypt," Gibbs said (see post 7:39). "We saw about a week or so ago, they made some provocative statements about what these marches meant. We now know how they're responding to the images that we see in Tahrir Square. They are arresting people, they are blocking Internet access.... For all the empty talk about Egypt, I think the Iranian government should allow the Iranian people to exercise the very same right of peaceful assembly and ability to demonstrate ... their desires," he said.

3:48 p.m.  It's press secretary Robert Gibbs's last day on the job - and it has been an eventful one. Here are some of his comments about the situation in Egypt:

Was Obama surprised by the news this morning? "Throughout the morning and into last night we'd gotten indications that the last speeches might not have been given ... particularly this morning, with everybody reporting that there would be a statement from the office of the president.  The president was in a regularly scheduled meeting ... when a note was taken to him to let him know what had been announced. Prior to giving the statement, he spent about an hour ... in the situation room," Gibbs said.

 

"I think it is safe to say that the very same contacts that we have in Egypt are some of the very same contacts that many of you [journalists] all have, that seemed to tell everyone that a different speech might be what we would hear," he said, noting that the statement from Obama last night stressed the "missed opportunity" for Egypt's government to take the "necessary steps" toward that orderly transition.

"That's been building throughout the week," he said, "as the government failed to take the necessary steps to broaden to coalition, to make some fundamental reforms that would signal to those in the opposition that they were serious, the crowds grew larger and larger."

3:38 p.m.  Amr Moussa, widely speculated to run as a possible candidiate for the Egyptian presidency, has announced he will step down from his position as secretary-general of the Arab League "within weeks," Egyptian state television reports. He has held the post for more than 10 years. See his comments about Mubarak's resignation at post 11:41.

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3:15 p.m.  President Obama speaks on Egypt:

"There are very few moments in our lives where we have the privilege to witness history taking place. The people of Egypt have spoken. Their voices have been heard. And Egypt will never be the same. By stepping down, President Mubarak responded to the Egyptian people's hunger for change. but this is not the end of Egypt's transition. It's a beginning. I'm sure there will be difficult days ahead and many questions remain unanswered. But I am confident that the people of Egypt can find the answers, and do so peacefully, constructively, and in the spirit of unity that has defined these last few weeks, for Egyptians have made it clear that nothing less than genuine democracy will carry the day.

"The military has served patriotically and responsibly as a caretaker to the state and will now have to ensure a transition that is credible in the eyes of the Egyptian people.  That means protecting the rights of Egypt's citizens, lifting the emergency law, revising the constitution and other laws to make this change irreversible, and laying out a clear path to elections that are fair and free. Above all this transition must bring all of Egypt's voices to the table for the spirit of peaceful protest and perseverance that the Egyptian people have shown can serve as a powerful wind at the back of this change. The United States will continue to be a friend and partner to Egypt. We stand ready to provide whatever assistance is necessary and asked for to pursue a credible transition to a democracy.

"I'm also confident that the same ingenuity and entrepreneurial spirit that the young people of Egypt have shown in recent days can be harnessed to create new opportunity, jobs and businesses that allow the extraordinary potential of this generation to take flight. I know that a democratic Egypt can advance its role of responsible leadership not only in the region but around the world.

"Egypt has played a pivotal role in human history for over 6,000 years. But over the last few weeks the wheel of history turned at a blinding pace as the Egyptian people demanded their universal rights. We saw mothers and fathers carrying their children on their shoulders to show them what true freedom might look like. We saw young Egyptians say, for the first time in my life I really count. My voice is heard. Even though I'm only one person, this is the way real democracy works. We saw protesters chant ... 'We are peaceful,' again and again.

"We saw a military that would not fire bullets at the people they were sworn to protect. And we saw doctors and nurses rushing into the streets to care for the wound. Volunteers checking protesters to ensure that they were unarmed. We saw people of faith praying together and chanting Muslims, Christians, we are one. And though we know the strains of faith divide too many in this world and no single event will close that chasm immediately, these scenes show us that we need not be defined by our differences. We can be defined by the common humanity that we share.

"And, above all, we saw a new generation emerge, a generation that uses their own creativity and talent and technology to call for a government that represented their hopes and not their fears. A government that is responsive to their boundless aspirations. One Egyptian put it simply—most people have discovered in the last few days that they are worth something, and this cannot be taken away from them anymore. Ever.

"This is the power of human dignity, and it can never be denied. Egyptians have inspired us, and they've done so by putting the eye to the idea that justice is best gained through violence. For in Egypt it was the moral force of nonviolence, not terrorism, not mindless killing, but nonviolence, moral force that bent the arc of history toward justice once more. And while the sights and sounds that we heard were entirely Egyptian, we can't help but hear the echoes of history, echoes from Germans tearing down a wall, Indonesian students taking to the streets, Gandhi leading his people down the path justice. As Martin Luther King said in celebrating the birth of a new nation in Ghana while trying to perfect his own, there's something in the soul that cries out for freedom.

"Those were the cries that came from Tahrir square and the entire world has taken note. Today belongs to the people of Egypt, and the American people are moved by these scenes in Cairo and across Egypt because of who we are as a people and the kind of world that we want our children to grow up in. The word ‘Tahrir’ means liberation. It's a word that speaks to that something in our souls that cries out for freedom. And forever more it will remind us of the Egyptian people, of what they did, of the things that they stood for, and how they changed their country and in doing so changed the world. Thank you."

3:00 p.m.  President Obama will deliver remarks. Watch it live here.

2:49 p.m. Egypt’s powerful armed forces have assumed full—if temporary—control of the country, making Defense Minister Mohamed Tantawi the most powerful man in the new Egypt, sitting at the helm of a provisional government made up almost entirely of senior Egyptian generals. But who is he?

National Journal's Yochi Dreazen writes that Tantawi is little-known in the West but has spent decades in uniform, rising to the rank of field marshal, the highest position in the Egyptian military. A veteran of Egypt’s three wars with Israel, he has served as the country’s defense minister since 1991. Tantawi had been so publicly and privately deferential to the president over the years that a classified cable sent by the U.S. Embassy in Cairo in 2008—and recently made public by WikiLeaks—said that younger Egyptian officers derided the defense minister as “Mubarak’s poodle.” Still, Tantawi has shown a deft political touch over the years and is likely to emerge as a formidable figure both inside and outside of Egypt, Dreazen writes.

Meanwhile, there have been unconfirmed reports that Tantawi planned to bring the head of Egypt’s supreme constitutional court into his ruling council, which is expected to fire the remainder of Mubarak’s cabinet and suspend both houses of Egypt’s Parliament.

2:44 p.m. An Obama administration official explains that Obama's remarks were delayed "because he is currently in the White House Situation Room meeting with his national-security team. The president dropped by a previously scheduled Principals Committee meeting convened by National Security Adviser Tom Donilon to discuss current developments in Egypt."

1:48 p.m.  United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said that the voice of the Egyptian people, particularly the youth, has been heard.

"And it is for them to determine the future of their country," he said. "I commend the people of Egypt for the peaceful, courageous, and orderly manner in which they have exercised their legitimate rights. I call on all parties to continue in the same spirit."

1:36 p.m. White House: Obama will speak at 3 this afternoon. Gibbs will speak at 3:30 p.m.

1:27 p.m. Egypt’s supreme military council issues a statement on state television, affirming this “historic and decisive moment” in the history of Egypt and Mubarak’s decision to step down. The military's higher council has accepted its task to run the affairs of the nation now.

According to the BBC translation, Lt. Gen. Sami Anan, chief of staff of the Egyptian military, said:

"Hosni Mubarak has decided to step down as president of the republic and to entrust the Higher Council of the Armed Forces to administer the affairs of the state. We are all aware of the magnitude of this issue and the seriousness of the demand of our great people to implement radical changes. The higher council is studying this issue with god's help in an effort to achieve the hopes of our great people.

"The higher council will later issue another statement which will define the steps that will be followed. It stresses at the same time that there is no other way forward other than the legitimate one aspired to by the people.

"The higher council salutes President Hosni Mubarak for what he has given during his time, in war and peace, and his decision to put the interests of the country first. The higher council also salutes the martyrs who have sacrificed their lives to protect the freedom of their country."

1:26 p.m. Ayman Nour, Egypt's best-known dissident (though largely invisible during the protests), tells Al-Jazeera that this is “the greatest day in the history of Egypt.”

“This nation has been born again. These people have been born again, and this is a new Egypt.… We look forward to the transition period, which is a period that will take us to a civilian state that will meet our legitimate demands of having a civilian free country. I believe the army is aware of its mission in preserving the situation until we move to the civilian period. This is not a coup d'etat. This is an attempt to meet the people's demands, which is a civilian state,” he said.

1:22 p.m. More than 1,000 Moroccans demonstrated against their government today for failing to meet a February 10 deadline to create new jobs and bring 4,500 recent graduates in to work for the government.

Morocco Communication Minister Khalid Naciri told reporters that the country sees an average of 21 protests every day ,and he considers this to be a “normal average.”

Check our interactive map to see where else unrest is spreading in the region.

1:17 p.m.  National Journal's Yochi Dreazen writes that virtually no Arab leader has ever left office voluntarily, with most instead remaining in power until they were killed, driven into exile, or forcibly deposed.

"Now that Mubarak has left the stage, the key question will become who else follows him out the door. During Mubarak’s 30 years as Egypt’s paramount ruler, he built an extensive power structure that included civilian allies such as Suleiman and Fathi Sorour, the speaker of the country’s parliament; the uniformed leadership of the country’s powerful armed forces; and the top officials of Egypt’s intelligence services and feared internal-security apparatuses. It wasn't immediately clear if Suleiman would follow Mubarak's lead and formally resign, but the military's move to assume power renders him largely irrelevant to the country's immediate future.

Joshua Stacher, an Egypt expert at Kent State University who lived in the country for nine years, said in the article, "This gives us a bit more insight into what happened yesterday: there was some kind of power struggle going on, and (Egyptian Defense Minister Mohamed) Tantawi won. Omar Suleiman isn’t in control anymore. This is now a military government."

1:02 p.m. White House: Obama will now speak at a time “to be determined.” 

Press secretary Robert Gibbs will hold the daily press briefing after the statement.

1:00 p.m. Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu tweets: “Congratulations to the Egyptian people. And we hope that a system meeting the expectations of the Egyptian people will emerge.”

12:58 p.m.  Roll over National Journal's interactive map to learn more about the stability of the surrounding nations and the leaders who may be next to fall.

12:56 p.m.  In a statement, Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., applauds Mubarak’s decision to step down and says, “The United States stands fully ready to assist the Egyptian people and government as they begin the hard work of democratic reform."

"In advance of elections later this year, Egyptians must be free to exercise their universal rights peacefully—to speak and express themselves without interference, including over the Internet; to organize independent political parties; to register candidates of their choosing for office; and to participate in elections that are free and fair by international standards," McCain said.

McCain, who had been calling publicly for Mubarak's immediate resignation, said the Egyptian military will continue to have a critical role in maintaining order and stability while still allowing Egyptians to exercise "their universal rights in peace."

12:44 p.m. Rep. Jeff Fortenberry, R-Neb., who has lived near Tahrir Square and returned since as a congressman, said he was “stunned” yesterday by Mubarak’s speech, as were the Egyptian people. “Today, I think he made the right decision for the future of Egypt, and fortunately, there was no major escalation in violence.  I am hopeful that the Egyptian military, now in power, will follow through on recent promises to amend Egypt’s constitution, implement democratic changes, investigate the acts of violence that ensued in recent weeks, and advance an orderly and peaceful transition,” he said in a statement.

12:43 p.m. This just in from National Journal's Billy House:

House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairwoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Fla., says now that the demands of the Egyptian people have been met, “steps must taken for the prompt commencement of a calm and orderly transition process toward freedom and democracy in Egypt.”

“This transition must include constitutional and administrative reforms, starting with the repeal of the emergency laws,” she said in a statement. “These are necessary for legitimate, democratic, internationally-recognized elections to take place with peaceful, responsible actors who will not only advance the aspirations of the Egyptian people but will continue to enforce Egypt’s international obligations.

“The U.S. and our allies must focus our efforts on helping to create the necessary conditions for such a transition to take place. We must also urge the unequivocal rejection of any involvement by the Muslim Brotherhood and other extremists who may seek to exploit and hijack these events to gain power, oppress the Egyptian people, and do great harm to Egypt’s relationship with the United States, Israel, and other free nations,” she said.

12:39 p.m.  British Prime Minister David Cameron said:

"Today has been a remarkable day, particularly for those in Tahrir Square and elsewhere, who have spoken out so bravely and so peacefully for change in their country. Egypt now has a really precious moment of opportunity to have a government that can bring the people together. We stand ready to help in any way that we can. We believe it must be a government that starts to put in place the building blocks of a truly open, free, and democratic society."

Bahrain's foreign minister, Khalid al Khalifa, tells Al-Jazeera: “Egypt takes the Arab world into a new era.... Let's make it a better one.”

12:38 p.m.  Fireworks over Tahrir Square.

12:35 p.m.  Sen. Ben Cardin, D-Md., who sits on the Foreign Relations Committee, said that Mubarak's resignation is a "positive step toward a meaningful transition that meets the expectations of those who have sought to express their freedoms in Cairo and across Egypt during the past few weeks."

"I also call on the current Egyptian government and any future government to continue to respect international treaties and security commitments made with the United States and other countries.  Despite our historical differences in respecting human rights and the rule of law, Egypt has long been a partner in working to ensure stability and combat terrorism in the Middle East. It is my hope that the new Egyptian government will continue to play an active role in these critical areas while continuing to uphold its country’s international obligations," Cardin said in a statement.

12:31 p.m.  More from NJ's Megan Scully about remarks from New York Rep. Gary Ackerman, the top Democrat on the House Foreign Affairs Middle East and South Asia Subcommittee.

"The whole world stands in awe of their [the Egyptian people's] achievement," he said. In recent weeks, Ackerman has been vocal in demanding that the United States cut off aid to Egypt until it is clear that a transition to democracy is under way. But after Mubarak's resignation today, he backed off those calls while still demanding oversight of the aid that is provided.

The United States, Ackerman said, "must continue to closely scrutinize our assistance program to ensure that we are providing the maximum assistance to the transition process while also maintaining the maximum leverage on the Egyptian military to ensure a genuine democratic transition."

The Egyptian people, he added, "should know that they will have no better friend and ally than the United States.”

12:28 p.m.  This just in from NJ's Megan Scully:

Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman John Kerry, D-Mass., who was one of the first lawmakers to publicly call for Mubarak's immediate resignation, called today's announcement an "extraordinary moment for Egypt" and a "chance at a new beginning."

"Now the hard work intensifies to prepare for free and fair elections that will allow the people to choose a broadly representative and responsive government," Kerry said, calling on Egypt's army and transition leaders to lift the emergency law and to clarify the the path forward to credible elections.

The United States, he added, must help Egyptians "turn this democratic moment into a process that builds a government responsive to economic needs as well as demands for freedom." Looking beyond Egypt's borders, Kerry said that what happens during the transition will have repercussions around the region.

"We know from recent experience in Gaza that this requires not just elections but hard work to build a government that is transparent, accountable, and broadly representative," he said.

12:23 p.m.  Vice President Joe Biden speaks about the “set of core principles” learned from the situation in Egypt while at the McConnell Center at the University of Louisville, with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell on stage.

“The first is that violence and intimidation against peaceful demonstrators is totally and thoroughly unacceptable. Secondly, that the universal rights of the Egyptian people must be respected and their aspirations must be met. And thirdly, that the transition that is taking place must be an irreversible change and a negotiated path to democracy," he said.

"Even in this contentious political climate in which we work, on this issue the United States has largely spoken with one voice, Democrats and Republicans alike speaking with the same voice. This unity has been important, and it will be even more important in these delicate and fateful days ahead.”

What is at stake in Egypt, Biden said, “will not just touch Egypt alone. You may remember that all this began when a fruit vendor in Tunisia, fed up with the indignity of a corrupt government and a stagnant economy, literally set himself on fire. And in doing so, ignited the passions of millions and millions of people throughout that region."

12:17 p.m.  Check out NJ's feed of tweets about Egypt.

12:12 p.m.  Sen. Mark Udall, D-Colo., a member of the Senate Armed Services and Intelligence committees, said that as "Egyptians celebrate their freedom tonight, we celebrate this moment with them."

"Mubarak has finally heard the voices of the Egyptian people and relinquished his 30-year hold on power, after 18 days of peaceful protests," Udall said in a statement. "It’s important that the military continue to act as a stabilizing force throughout this transition.... I believe we need to do everything we can to continue to support Egypt’s peaceful move toward democracy.” 

12:00 p.m. Wael Ghonim, the Google executive who was arrested by Egypt's police, now tells CNN:

"I just want to say from the bottom of my heart congratulations to all Egyptians. I want to say, welcome back, Egypt ... today is the day for celebrations. I can't even think.... We haven't been sleeping. I need to rest and sleep," he said. "I just want to say to Hosni Mubarak and Omar Suleiman and all those who thought that being in power means you can oppress people ... you guys paid the price. It's enough for you guys that in history books they're going to use one word to describe you, 'dictators.' "

11:54 a.m.  Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said in a statement today that he is "pleased" that Mubarak has listened to the Egyptian people. Reid also emphasized the need for an orderly transition that leads to "true democracy" for Egypt, including free, fair, and open elections.

"We caution all sides against violence during this transition, and we will be watching the situation closely," Reid said. "We wish the Egyptian people the best in their next steps toward determining their own future under a democratic process."

11:50 a.m. Missed Suleiman's speech? Al-Jazeera captured the 30 seconds that ended Mubarak's 30-year rule here.

11:41 a.m.  Arab League Secretary-General Amr Moussa tells CNN:

"We have achieved what the people wanted, and now it is our duty to build up the new Egypt based on the unity of the Egyptian people," Moussa said. "I am optimistic that we will choose the right path."

Moussa has said in previous days that he would be willing to run for presidential office after Mubarak. Suleiman's statement was "very short but really monumental," he said. "For now, the president has stepped down, the military council is in charge, and we will see what kind of procedures and other steps that will be taken. According to the short statement read by the vice president, the military [is in charge] of the country."

11:31 a.m. Reuters reports: "The [European Union's] foreign-policy chief, Catherine Ashton, says she 'respects' Mubarak's decision to step down, and it's important to accelerate dialogue for a broad-based government."

11:29 a.m.  Mohamed ElBaradei, who called for a transitional government earlier today (see post 6:47) tells the Associated Press, "This is the greatest day of my life."

"The country has been liberated after decades of repression," he said, adding that he expects a "beautiful" transition of power.

ElBaradei told Reuters that he looks forward to working with the military and "sees a period of military people cosharing power, and that running for president is not on his mind," Reuters reports.

11:25 a.m. White House says Obama will make an on-camera statement at 1:30 p.m. EST.

11:22 a.m.  An Obama administration official says:

"The president was informed of President Mubarak’s decision to step down during a meeting in the Oval Office. He then watched TV coverage of the scene in Cairo for several minutes in the outer Oval."

11:20 a.m.  National Journal's Yochi Dreazen wrote yesterday that, "Whenever Mubarak leaves the stage, the key question will become who else follows him out the door." Will the next regime be more of the same?

11:05 a.m. Mubarak has "decided to step down as president of Egypt and has assigned the higher council of the armed forces to run the affairs of the country. May Allah be our guide," Suleiman said to crowds erupting in cheers, according to the MSNBC translation.

Egyptian protesters, after chanting "leave, leave," for 18 days, are now shouting, "Egypt is free!"

A fuller translation of Suleiman's remarks from BBC is below:

"In the name of God the merciful, the compassionate, citizens, during these very difficult circumstances Egypt is going through, President Hosni Mubarak has decided to step down from the office of president of the republic and has charged the high council of the armed forces to administer the affairs of the country. May God help everybody."

10:43 a.m. Anchors on Egyptian state television telephoned protesters and aired the dialogue, CNN reports. State TV anchors told protesters, "We are one, we are part of you, we are also media.... We fell into a trap in the first few days of the crisis; it had to do with the misinformation we got," CNN reports.

Up until now, Egyptian state television had primarily broadcast the regime's perspective.

10:25 a.m.  A protester in the massive crowd outside Mubarak's palace in Cairo tells The Guardian:

"There are 3,000 or 4,000 people outside the palace, and there's a lot on the other side. The army's allowing us to have a sit-in outside the palace, but the main road leading up to the palace is blocked off with barbed wire. We don't think Mubarak's inside the palace, but it's just a way of putting more pressure on the regime after yesterday's speech, which was incredibly disappointing.... We are holding the president under siege. It's another symbol of our protests," Karim Ennarah said.

10:15 a.m. Hossam Badrawi, the newly appointed secretary-general of Mubarak's National Democratic Party, now tells the BBC in an interview in Arabic: "I will announce my resignation in the coming hours."

BBC's Lyse Doucet tweets that Badrawi is resigning because he is "unhappy with president's speech."

Badrawi said yesterday that Mubarak would step down in his nighttime address. See the post at 7:56 a.m. today for Badrawi's follow-up comments that although Mubarak's delivery was "bad," the message that he stepped down in last night's address was "clear and black and white."

10:02 a.m.  Al-Jazeera reports that military helicopters arrive at Cairo's presidential palace ahead of the expected statement.

9:40 a.m. "Egypt state TV says an important, urgent statement is expected from the presidency shortly," Reuters reports.

9:23 a.m. A U.S. government source confirms to NJ that Mubarak has left Cairo (see post 8:29 for the speculation earlier).

A local government official tells the Associated Press that Mubarak is in the Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh, 250 miles from Cairo.

From AP: "The official, who asked not to be identified because of the sensitivity of the issue, said Friday that Mubarak arrived at the airport in Sharm and was greeted by the local governor.... Mubarak spends a good deal of time in Sharm, where he has a palace."

9:22 a.m. "Tens if not hundreds of thousands of people have marched on the Ras el-Tin palace, another of the president's official residences, in Alexandria, Egypt's second-biggest city," Al-Jazeera reports.

9:20 a.m.  Al-Jazeera reports that the Iraqi government is giving money and free flights to Iraqi citizens in Egypt who want to leave the country. More than 1,700 Iraqis have taken the government's offer, the network reports, "with Iraq making use of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's personal plane and one provided by transport ministry, while families who opt to stay in Egypt are also to receive financial support."

9:09 a.m.  The Associated Press reports that Danish Prime Minister Lars Loekke Rasmussen has become the first European Union leader to call publicly and definitively for President Mubarak to step down. "Mubarak is history. Mubarak must step down," he said. "Mubarak made a huge blunder yesterday."

9:05 a.m.  Check out NJ's Tumblr site for a great picture of the packed Tahrir Square. Today's protests are expected to be the largest we've seen yet.

8:29 a.m. Where in the world is Hosni Mubarak?

The New York Times issues a breaking news alert: "Mubarak Has Left Cairo, a Western Official Says."

Al Arabiya television is reporting he went to the Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh, where he has a villa, for a "break," BBC reports. Israel's Channel 10 is reporting the same thing.

ABC's Christiane Amanpour tweets: "Senior egyptian official tells me Mubarak has left Cairo. Remains in Egypt as figurehead Prez. He left last night after speech to nation."

Meanwhile, Al-Jazeera tweets in Arabic: "Multiple sources are discussing the departure of President Hosni Mubarak from Egypt to the United Arab Emirates."

8:10 a.m.  The Muslim Brotherhood issued a statement dismissing Mubarak's speech as a trick, Reuters reports:

"Mubarak appeared before us with a stinging speech that proves that he is still in charge. He still says he will do this and do that but will delegate authority to his deputy. But it's just more deceptive words to stop the people's demands," the statement said.

"The two statements issued by Mubarak and his deputy are rejected by the people," it continued, then addressed the people. "It is your fate to face an arrogant, corrupt regime that is betting on your patience and ability running out, so prove how patient and determined and insistent you are and take back your rights."

8:06 a.m.  BBC is reporting that several thousand people have gathered outside Egypt's state television building since the end of Friday prayers. People there have been "extremely vocal and they are shouting their hostility at the Mubarak regime directly at its main mouthpiece," BBC reports.

7:56 a.m.  Hossam Badrawi, the secretary general of Mubarak's National Democratic Party, had told Britain's Channel 4 News yesterday (see yesterday, 10:44 a.m.) that Mubarak was stepping down. Today, in a follow-up conversation with the network, he actually stands by his earlier remarks: "The delivery of the speech was bad, because he spoke about himself and as if he is going to follow things up, but the reality is that he is not in power. Constitutional action is being taken," Badrawi said, noting that if Mubarak stood down there would need to be an election in 60 days. 

"The solution is giving authority to the vice-president. But this does not include changing any article of the constitution or appointing the government. President Mubarak is out in all his powers apart from calling for a referendum on the constitution and also appointing the cabinet. The reality will stand. The message is clear and black and white. But the delivery did not give the right impression," Badrawi said. 

7:40 a.m.  Stock market futures were lower this morning, in part because of worries about the stand-off in Egypt between protesters and President Hosni Mubarak. The Wall Street Journal reports that renewed risk aversion pushed stocks down in South Korea and Taiwan overnight, and European stocks were mostly weaker, too.

7:39 a.m.  Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad weighs in:

"Despite all the [West's] complicated and satanic designs ... a new Middle East is emerging without the Zionist regime and U.S. interference, a place where the arrogant powers will have no place," Ahmadinejad told a crowd, according to the Associated Press.

Ahmadinejad, speaking on the anniversary of his country's 1979 Islamic Revolution that toppled the pro-U.S. shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi and made Iran an Islamic republic, urged Egyptian protesters to keep protesting until Mubarak steps down. "It's your right to be free. It's your right to exercise your will and sovereignty ... and choose the type of government and the rulers," he said.

Yet ahead of a large rally planned Monday in Iran in solidarity with the Egypt and Tunisia uprisings, "Iranian authorities have blocked reformist websites and detained several opposition supporters and activists," CNN reports, citing opposition website Saham News. The reported crackdown comes just days after authorities warned that the rally will be confronted by force if it takes place.

7:02 a.m.  Mohamed ElBaradei tweets: "Entire nation is on the streets. Only way out is for regime to go. People power can't be crushed. We shall prevail. Still hope army can join."

Several news networks are reporting today's protests are expected to be the largest in the crisis so far.

7:00 a.m.  More on statement from the Egyptian army. It's calling for an end to emergency rule, but only when the current crisis passes, CNN reports. The army will work to ensure free presidential elections in September and pursue  justice in court cases and disputed parliamentary seats.

6:50 a.m.  Egypt's supreme military council has announced that it backs Mubarak's decision to remain in office but transfer powers to Omar Suleiman as part of a gradual transition, according to the Washington Post. Yet faced with throngs of people in Tahrir Square or even outside the presidential palace, the army has not removed them, stopping only at encouraging people to "return to normal life," in a military statement read on state television.

6:47 a.m.  In an opinion piece in The New York Times today, Mohammed ElBaradei, the Nobel laureate and opposition leader during the protests, dismissed Mubarak's plan to transfer powers as being "deaf" to his own people and "hanging on obsessively to power that is no longer his to keep."

ElBaradei called for the creation of a three-person presidential council and transitional government of national unity that would include a representative of the military. "The interim government during this period should be to set in motion the process that will turn Egypt into a free and democratic society," he writes.

6:45 a.m. The Atlantic's Graeme Wood writes from Cairo that last night was the closest Mubarak will ever get to a graceful exit.

"As Mubarak started his speech tonight, the crowd hushed and was ready to hear him out. They wanted celebration, not blood. They seemed ready to cheer and exult, and would surely have done so even if all Mubarak said was that he intended to resign immediately. He wouldnt even have had to agree to a fixed date for elections. A simple 'I'm going' would have sufficed. Instead the crowd murmured in disbelief as Mubarak droned on, defiantly granting no substantive concession whatsoever," Wood writes. "I filed out of Tahrir with a crowd that kicked up dust as it went, like a cattle stampede. By now it was nearly midnight, and many who had come to watch history being made went home filled with rage..."

6:40 a.m.  Now it’s Suleiman’s turn to try his hand as the country’s de facto ruler, even if Mubarak retains his title as president. Suleiman is already using an array of tactics—many modeled on ones that Mubarak employed during his decades in office—to weaken the protest movement and buy more time for the regime, NJ's Yochi Dreazen writes in the magazine.

6:30 a.m.  National Journal's Yochi Dreazen writes that Mubarak’s surprising declaration that he will retain power—at least nominally—represents a worst-case scenario for the Obama administration, which faces the prospect of either escalating a showdown with one of its most important regional allies or sitting by as the Mubarak regime takes potentially violent steps to preserve its rule.

In the hours before Mubarak’s defiant address, several U.S. officials made clear that they were privately thrilled by the prospects of Mubarak’s departure. Instead, the White House is now confronting an entrenched regime that has publicly rejected several of its key demands – most notably for the immediate lifting of Egypt’s emergency laws – and seems almost certain to take a harder line towards the pro-democracy protesters in the days ahead.

6:00 a.m. (Feb. 11) Mubarak's not gone and neither are the protesters. Keep following this blog for live updates from the 18th day of protests. 

-- February 10 live blog below --

10:00 p.m. Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., President Obama's rival in the 2008 election, said called Mubarak's speech "deeply unfortunate and troubling" in a statement released tonight. "The voices of the Egyptian people are growing louder and more unified, and they are not demanding partial transfers of power or minor adjustments to the current government. They are calling for President Mubarak to step down as the beginning of a meaningful and enduring transition to democracy in Egypt."

8:36 p.m. Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak's refusal to step down serves as a reminder of the limits of America's influence, writes National Journal's Marc Ambinder.

8:07 p.m. In a harsh statement issued tonight, President Obama said the "Egyptian government must put forward a credible, concrete, and unequivocal path toward genuine democracy, and they have not yet seized that opportunity."

-- Rebecca Kaplan and Katy O'Donnell contributed contributed to this article.

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