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CNN BREAKING NEWS
Mubarak Remarks to the Country
Aired February 10, 2011 - 15:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Ben, as you watch these crowds -- it's the top of the hour now. It's after 10:00 at night in Cairo right now. And we have no indication precisely when Hosni Mubarak will speak, only that his aides have said he will deliver a major speech. And we heard earlier in the day from the chief of the Egyptian army saying to the protesters, all your demands will be met.
And that obviously signals if all of their demands will be met, the major demand is that Mubarak simply go away and go away now, not in September, after the next scheduled elections.
Hala Gorani is watching all of this unfold with us as well.
And just to remind our viewers, Hala was just there in Cairo the other day.
What a difference, though, a week makes, Hala. This is a moment that these people at Tahrir Square, they sense the beginning of freedom is there right now. They can taste it, but they will be so bitterly disappointed if it goes away.
HALA GORANI, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: Absolutely.
And we're hearing, Wolf, reports from the Information Ministry having told certain wire agencies that the president will definitely not step down. It's a question of what form the speech will take. Will President Hosni Mubarak say, look, I'm handing over some powers to the military, some powers to my vice president? I will stay as commander in chief or as president of Egypt until September, but some of the crucial powers that I have held for the last 29, almost 30 years now, I will delegate?
Will he step down completely? It's very important to wait for the speech and to analyze its contents precisely because we're hearing so many contradictory reports about what it will contain, also, what role the military play tomorrow, in the coming weeks, in the coming months, how much control, political control they will exercise over this country's leadership.
And the other big question that you have been discussing there with Anderson Cooper, with Ben Wedeman and others is, will the protesters be satisfied with what they hear tonight? Because if they're not, they have vowed in no uncertain terms to continue to come day in and day out to Tahrir Square and continue to demand with this reenergized vigor that we have seen over the last 48 hours that their leader, Hosni Mubarak, step down, no questions asked -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Yes. Let me bring Anderson into this conversation as well.
It's fascinating to me, Anderson, and as our viewers all know here in the United States and around the world, you were just there. I don't see any protesters -- maybe I'm missing something, at least visible protesters -- chanting, Mubarak, Mubarak stay.
BLITZER: Pro-Mubarak protesters, they were out there briefly. They were causing a lot of mischief and they were hurting a lot of people. But other than what we're seeing right now, it seems like everyone is increasingly on the same page: Mubarak must go.
ANDERSON COOPER, HOST, "ANDERSON COOPER 360": Well, certainly, the images we're seeing are Liberation Square. If you are a pro-Mubarak protester, they tried to take over that square. They tried that already. That game, they lost that one.
They tried for 48 hours. The Egyptian military stood by just watching them. And had they taken over the square, this would be a very different story indeed. But they didn't. The people in the square literally defended that square with their lives tenaciously digging up stones from the streets in order to hurl back rocks at the rocks and the Molotov cocktail that were being thrown at them.
There are certainly people who support the Mubarak regime. Look, if the intelligence service, if the Ministry of the Interior has more than a million employees or a million-and-a-half employees, those are people who have a stake in maintaining the Mubarak regime. There are plenty of people who have a stake in maintaining the Mubarak regime.
So, there are -- don't underestimate that there are still supporters of his out there. We saw last week on I think it was -- you know, shortly after Mubarak spoke and said he was going to remain in power until September, there was a big government-sponsored pro-Mubarak street party basically, and they revved up the crowds and from there the crowds moved on to cause mayhem in the streets and try to attack these anti-Mubarak protesters.
So there are still supporters of Mubarak out there. And we're not going to be seeing them in this square, because, frankly, it wouldn't be safe for them to go to that square and try to start causing trouble. We have seen the results of what can happen. And the military is now around that square. The protesters themselves, Wolf, try to check I.D.s. They pat people down. They're looking for infiltrators. They're looking for people who are trying to cause trouble.
They want peaceful protests. They understand the importance of that for their own movement. But, you know, again, it's fascinating to hear that we're now still hearing from state TV that maybe Mubarak is not going to be stepping down, or we're hearing from people in the state apparatus that he may not step down.
If at this point, he decides he is not going to be stepping down, it will be very interesting to see what that crowd in Liberation Square will do, because this is a crowd which believes he is going to be stepping down in a matter of minutes. And this is a crowd which has just grown in strength every single day and is stronger -- these protesters are perhaps in a stronger position than they have ever been in the more than two weeks that we have been witnessing this entire uprising unfold.
So for him now to -- if he has not gotten that message yet, if his vice president has not gotten that message yet, there's no telling where this thing will go instantly in the next few hours. And, again, it makes it all the more crucial to hear this man's speech, to hear what he is actually saying.
And then the devils is in the details. What will happen in the days, the hours, the days and the weeks ahead in terms of if there is to be a new regime, a new government, how is that actually going to get set up?
BLITZER: Yes, there's no doubt that there will be an explosion, I think it's fair to say, an explosion of anger if in fact Mubarak goes on television in the coming minutes or in the next hour or two and announces he's not stepping down. These folks who are dancing in the streets right now, and they're chanting and they have got the music going, they will be so angry, and I suspect folks all over Egypt -- this is a huge country of 80 million people.
The anger level will just be huge right there.
Fred Pleitgen is our correspondent. He's inside the square right now. I believe he's the only network television reporter who's reporting from Tahrir Square, from on the ground at Tahrir Square right now.
Fred, I just want to remind viewers, about 90 minutes or so ago, the president of the United States, Barack Obama, spoke. And if you read between the lines of what President Obama said, it sounds like it was all over. America will do everything to help an orderly and genuine transition to democracy in Egypt.
President Obama said this is a moment of transformation, that the people of Egypt have been calling for change. It's now happening, and the young people, your generation -- everything that President Obama was saying seemed to signal that at least from the U.S. perspective, it was over for President Mubarak. And the CIA director, Leon Panetta, telling Congress he had strong indications Mubarak was going to step down tonight.
But go ahead. Have any of these comments from the United States really resonated with the folks where you are in Tahrir Square, Fred? FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN BERLIN BUREAU CHIEF: Well, Wolf, one of the interesting things is that the people here keep telling me that they feel that the United States should have more faith in the people of Egypt.
They feel that the United States at some point might have been afraid of the transition that is going on here and they felt were backing a dictator for way too long.
So, I have heard a lot of people criticize the United States for its stance. I have actually -- actually been trying to get to you some people who are from here.
Sir, could I just ask you real quick, how do you feel about how America is dealing with what's going on in Egypt right now?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, actually, America sometimes supporting Egypt, sometimes supporting Mubarak, sometimes supporting our army.
But until now, we did not get any actual or good answer from America. We -- America has to support us because have the right. There's no any president 30 years in the seat. Do you believe -- How many American presidents come? Around five presidents come?
PLEITGEN: But are you happy with how the Obama administration is handling things now?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Very nice. Very nice. The Obama administration is very nice.
PLEITGEN: How do you feel tonight being here?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My last night. It's the final.
PLEITGEN: What do you want to say to President Mubarak?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sorry?
PLEITGEN: What do you want to say to President Mubarak?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We need our money back. He stole a lot of money. We need our money back. There's money for all Egyptians. We need our money back.
PLEITGEN: Thank you very much, sir.
Well, as you can see, Wolf, there is some criticism of how the United States handled this up to this point. But as you can see, yes,those messages that the Obama administration has been sending so far this evening and really over the past couple days is something that was noted here on Tahrir Square among people we have to note again and again who have been camping out here for a very long time and enduring hardships, but still they do have access to communication. They know exactly what's going on -- Wolf.
BLITZER: And when that protester says we want our money back from President Mubarak, he's talking of all the reports that Mubarak has amassed a fortune of anywhere from $20 billion to $70 billion -- billion dollars -- not million, but billion dollars.
We just got a tweet, by the way, from the Mohamed ElBaradei, the former head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, the Nobel Prize winner -- quote -- "I am closely following the situation. We are almost there."
That's a tweet from Mohammed ElBaradei.
Fred, stand by for a moment, because Anderson has a question he wants to ask you.
Anderson, go ahead.
COOPER: Yes. Fred, how will the people in the square hear the news? Is there -- is there a TV monitor they have put up to actually watch Mubarak's speech? Are they just listening on cell phones to -- or how are they going to hear it?
PLEITGEN: Well, a lot of people are actually hearing on -- listening to it on cell phones. But the situation here and the scene, Anderson, is a little bit different than when you left a couple of days ago.
The place here has really become more entrenched, more sophisticated. I haven't seen the big screen now that was here before. There's one screen that is sort of...
COOPER: OK. Clearly we're having problems with Fred's connection.
But, again, him saying obviously that -- and we have seen it become more entrenched, as Fred was saying. We have seen tents erected in the center of the square, people determined to just stay there day after day, night after night, refusing to leave that hard-won piece of ground.
And, Wolf, you talked about Mohamed ElBaradei. I have interviewed him a number of times over the last two weeks. And all along what he has been calling for not only is Mubarak stepping down and what he -- and says the other protesters have been in agreement with, including the Muslim Brotherhood, is setting up some kind of three-person commission that would essentially run the country.
And as of a week ago, he was talking about Suleiman, Vice President Suleiman, being one person on that commission, a military representative and a civilian representative. He wanted kind of a government of technocrats who were not interested in their own power, but who were interested in just maintaining stability, building democratic institutions, changing the government, rewriting essentially the constitution because essentially it's a constitution which has allowed a dictator to remain in power under emergency powers.
So he wanted kind of a government of technocrats who would then usher in free and affair elections down the road, the idea being that because Mubarak has systematically dismantled anybody who could be a threat to him, he's not allowed democratic institutions to grow and to flourish.
The Muslim Brotherhood, as we have often talked about, is probably the most organized nongovernmental group in the state. That obviously causes concern among a lot of people. And people in the square will say, look, this is not about the Muslim Brotherhood. They were not the ones forming this revolution. They got on board to it late.
They are playing a role, yes, but this is not about, you know, Islamic fundamentalism. This is about democracy. This is about people wanting to express themselves and wanting a government which actually does represent them in which their rights are respected.
So, what form of government moves forward. The opposition, the protesters definitely have ideas in mind of what they want to see moving forward. The question is, has the Mubarak regime fully accepted those ideas, or is this yet another play? Is this yet another lie from the Mubarak regime? And we have heard so many lies over the last two weeks. Is this yet another attempt to just stall for time; is this just another attempt to kind of keep them in power, if not Mubarak, then his cronies and his henchmen?
And, again, it all depends on what he is going to say tonight, the reaction to it and what happens in the days ahead.
BLITZER: Yes, it's approaching 10:15 at night right now in Cairo. And we're still waiting for President Mubarak to speak.
We're told he will speak. We're getting conflicting word on whether or not he will announce he's resigning or stepping down. His information minister has told Egyptian state television he will not resign, but the chief of the Egyptian army says to the protesters -- and he was there at Tahrir Square -- all your demands will be met. So there are conflicting words, Leon Panetta, the CIA director, telling Congress he fully expects that Mubarak could step down as early as tonight.
Jill Dougherty is our State Department correspondent.
Jill, I know what the U.S., what President Obama want to see in the end. They want to see a democratic, free, new government in Egypt that will cooperate with the United States, continue the peace treaty with Israel, work together with the United States in the war on terror, work with the region in keeping the Suez Canal open.
But I'm still confused and maybe you can help me and help our viewers on what the preference is for the Obama administration, how the Egyptians get there. Do they want Suleiman, the vice president, to do it? Do they want someone else to do it? Do you have a complete appreciation of how the Obama administration hopes to achieve -- hopes that the Egyptians will achieve what President Obama himself said an hour-and-a-half ago, an orderly and genuine transition to democracy?
JILL DOUGHERTY, CNN FOREIGN AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Right.
Wolf, I think what you would say it's an orderly transition to the process that will take them to elections. And those elections, as we remember, were supposed to be in September. At that point, if you had free and fair elections, the people on the streets would be able to vote for the person they want and then they could bring in a government that would begin to, you know, carry out their wishes.
But the complication now is it's very complex in getting to that because let's say that this is the military taking over. Is that technically a coup? How do they define it? If it's defined as a coup, it means money from the United States. They have to decide whether the aid that the U.S. gives continues.
So, in this transition, they have to do a number of things, the Egyptian government. They would have to change the constitution, number one, to make sure that all of these things that they are doing, you know, creating political parties, how long does the president serve, how is he elected, all of that would have to be put into the constitution. So constitutional change is the most important. And then there are legal things, there are laws that have to flow from that.
The Parliament that was elected was elected in a completely bogus election. So the Parliament would have to go. They would have to have parliamentary elections so that there are people there who can make the law.
BLITZER: Jill, let me interrupt. Is it your understanding that the Obama administration, everything you're hearing from State Department officials and other U.S. officials, is it your understanding that between now and the elections, they want Suleiman, the vice president, to be in charge or do they want something -- someone from the military to be in charge? What is your understanding?
DOUGHERTY: Wolf, they are not saying that. The words that you have to pay attention to today were President Obama saying orderly and genuine. And so genuine is the word that they're using.
What does that mean? It would have to be legal in some fashion. That's what they need. If this is not legal, if there's any question about that, that's a big problem. But I will tell you, Wolf, they are not saying the military should run it, Suleiman should run, or it could be a combination of both.
And that is why in this building and I'm sure over at the White House, they are looking very closely and waiting to seeing exactly how President Mubarak defines this.
BLITZER: All right.
Let me just tell our viewers what they're seeing. You see that big white sheet over there at Tahrir Square. We're told that that's going to be where they will project Egyptian state television once President Mubarak starts speaking. There will be a projector that will show it on that white sheet that you see in the upper left- hand corner of the screen right there.
Hala Gorani is watching all of this unfold, together with our correspondent who is in the square, Ivan Watson.
Hala, as we get ready to hear from the Egyptian president, we're getting more conflicting word on what he will say, the information minister saying he will definitely not announce he's stepping down, but others suggesting he will step down. I guess we are going to have to wait the old-fashioned way and hear what Mubarak has to say directly.
GORANI: Yes. Absolutely, because we're hearing from senior officials that he will announce that he's stepping down. The information minister telling other reporters, this wire agency is reporting that, that he will definitely not step down.
Potentially and it's not impossible that we might see a combination of both things, that he will hand over some authority to the vice president and the military, but remain the figurehead of the regime. This of course will not satisfy protesters because Ivan Watson is joining us live from Cairo from Tahrir Square.
They are expecting this Egyptian ruler to leave at this point, aren't they? That's what they're expecting to hear in that speech. Ivan Watson, can you hear me?
IVAN WATSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hala, we're looking out at this amazing scene over here. I'm sorry. We had a brief audio problem. Let's try to show you a little bit of the square. It's remarkable. (INAUDIBLE)
BLITZER: All right, unfortunately...
GORANI: All right, there's a little bit too much noise.
BLITZER: Yes, we're having real trouble hearing Ivan. Unfortunately, there's a lot of extraneous noise, which is totally understandable given what's going on at Tahrir Square right now. We're going to try to fix that microphone that Ivan has.
Fred Pleitgen, can you hear me? Are you still there? You're at Tahrir Square as well.
PLEITGEN: Certainly am, Wolf. And I can hear you very well. There's people, many people here, waving the Egyptian flag now and listening to the Egyptian national anthem.
I have one man actually with me, if you could just join me, whose name is Mohammed (ph)?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mohammed.
And tell me what's this moment like for you? Do you feel like this is a special moment for Egypt?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Actually, it's a moment -- I believe that it's a moment that we have all been waiting for, for too long. We have been waiting for this day where we can enjoy our freedom, enjoy the democracy that the rest of the world is enjoying, and actually start building our own country and deciding our own destiny for once in our lives. Some of us lost hope over the years, but this brought it all back.
PLEITGEN: Did you ever -- I assume you're in your 30s. Is that right?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.
PLEITGEN: Did you ever know another president than Hosni Mubarak? You don't -- you've never seen anyone else.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When I was 4 years old, actually. That's the last...
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.
PLEITGEN: What about -- we keep hearing that one of the things that might happen is that the military might take over here for at least some time. Would that be good for you? Are you in favor of that?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Of course things are not going to just happen overnight. There will have to be a transitional stage -- that actually what we have paid for the price -- the price for all this, I think anything is worth it. Anything is worth that we take this leap of faith and just move on to whatever whatever the future is hiding for us. But we all believe that it's going to be much brighter than the last 30 years.
PLEITGEN: Thank you very much, sir.
There you hear it, Wolf, many people here saying that. They believe no that matter what the future holds, they believe it will be brighter than the past. That's certainly a lot of what I have been hearing from, especially the young people down here on Tahrir Square.
This revolution really was initiated by a lot of young people. As we know, we keep talking about it as the Facebook or the Twitter revolution. And it really is. People keep telling me, yes, that these social media were absolutely instrumental. And they feel that this is now their time to stand up and make a difference.
And that's really one of the reasons many say that they never backed down even when the government made little concessions to them. Many thought that was simply not enough -- Wolf.
BLITZER: And just to be precise, Fred, the mobile phone networks, the Internet, all that is operating as usual, free operation? There's been no hindrance of that on this day? Is that right?
PLEITGEN: Yes, so far, everything's been operating just fine.
Of course, now that we're down in this crowd, we're having a lot of issues with mobile phone networks and stuff. That seems to be more to be an issue with the fact there's just so many people out here and so many people who are trying to tweet, who are trying to listen in somehow to see if they can listen to the speech, but also people who are talking to their relatives, of course.
So, that's not -- but in total, the Internet has been working fine, as has mobile phone and SMS. Of course that was not the case a couple of weeks ago, when everything was cut off on certain days as the regime attempted to cut down these communications, thinking that it might stop people from coming here, but of course, it never had -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Yes, that's a good point.
BLITZER: Hala Gorani, you were just there in Egypt. They have a very sophisticated mobile phone network in Egypt, don't they?
GORANI: All right. Well, I continue to watch these pictures.
Just a few days ago, Wolf, of course the square was reenergized after that live interview with Wael Ghonim, the Google executive. They are coming in greater numbers than they have from the beginning of this movement. It's going to be just fascinating to watch the reaction if President Mubarak says he is not stepping down, because you were discussing with Anderson, with Ben, with Ivan the real possibility that President Hosni Mubarak might say, well, I am handing over some of my powers to the vice president, to the head of the military, but not all of my powers. I will remain the emblematic figurehead of this regime, this regime that has been led by President Mubarak and his close associates for 30 years.
An interesting point there about the opposition, about the Muslim Brotherhood, about the youth movement also in the square, what will they do, how will they react if President Hosni Mubarak does not step down? How will the military relate to the Muslim Brotherhood, by the way?
In a system like Turkey, the military has always been a counterweight, counterbalance to the Islamist parties. Will they act in the same way in Egypt, Wolf? It's just fascinating. There's so many angles. It is so multilayered what could happen in Egypt.
And as you have been saying over the last few hours, what happens in Egypt really influences the rest of the Arab world. And so many of the regimes' heads I think, from Syria to other nation states in the Gulf potentially, are watching these protests and thinking, my country could be next.
BLITZER: And we keep getting sort of strong, very strong indications, Hala, from some of the countries in the Gulf they don't want President Mubarak to step down. The Saudi leadership, for example, King Abdullah, he is making it very, very clear through his aides he would like President Mubarak to stay in power. They have had a very close relationship. He doesn't want him to go away. Several of the Gulf states, as well.
Anderson, I know it's a source of some anger to these protesters in Egypt right now, and you were just there, that so many of these other neighbors of Egypt, some of these other Arab leaders, or whether the Saudis or in the Gulf, they're saying to Mubarak, you know what, fight it out. Stay in power. You belong there.
And that's making a lot of these people very, very angry.
COOPER: I think what we have seen in the last two weeks or so in the statements from Mubarak, in the statements from his vice president, this is a regime which believes they are Egypt. Mubarak, it seems -- and Fouad Ajami has said this on our program -- has come to believe that he is Egypt.
And what these protesters are saying very simply is, you are not Egypt. You are part of Egypt, yes. You are part of -- you are the person who has ruled us, but we are Egypt. This is the real Egypt and this is what Egypt can be.
And the government has fought back by saying, rhetorically saying that no, these protesters, these foreign reporters are belittling Egypt, are take making fun of Egypt. And I just don't think people are buying that anymore in Egypt, certainly not the hundreds of thousands who we're seeing now pouring into that square and the many who have poured into that square for more than two weeks now.
You know, I think the lies of the regime have been laid bare. And one of the other things that Fouad Ajami, who I have come to really respect over the last two weeks, in his analysis on all of this is, he was pointing out how Mubarak has been playing from the playbook of Saddam, attempting to at first crack down directly with leverage of the state, with the riot police. That didn't work. Then cracking down with thugs, encouraging people to go out on the street and attack protesters, attack reporters. And that didn't work.
The people kept coming. Time has moved beyond Hosni Mubarak, and his lies have been laid bare, that he is not Egypt. And if he tries to stay in power, if he continues -- if he makes a speech tonight in which he just indicates, well, he's giving up some of the reins of control, but he's going to remain as the figurehead, he has not been listening and he's not seeing these pictures, and he has not understood the lessons that we have all learned in the last two weeks.
BLITZER: Yes, and I just want to remind viewers that big sheet you see there, that's going to be used by a projector to show Mubarak, once he's on television, delivering his speech. The people at Tahrir Square, they will be able to see that image there and they will either be celebrating and continuing to dance and sing or they will be very, very angry, depending on what he says.
His information minister has told Egyptian state television that Mubarak definitely is not going to step down. So we will just have to wait and see what's going on.
Arwa Damon is in the crowd and she's on the phone for us right now.
You're down in Tahrir Square, Arwa. Tell us what you're seeing, what you're hearing.
ARWA DAMON, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, we're out here among the masses, where the mood is really quite electric. The air is filled with anticipation.
But as time is wearing on, ahead of that much anticipated speech, people are also growing more anxious. One young musician we were talking to saying, I was so happy coming down here tonight, and then I got a bit worried, and now I'm just trying not to feel any emotion at all.
You also just heard the national anthem playing over the crowds, everyone standing. We have been hearing songs, music, but also a bit of warning, one man coming by telling all of the demonstrators that, no matter what happens tonight, even if Hosni Mubarak does step down, they still must stand their ground, because there are so many more demands that have to be met.
A lot of people here saying that they want to see Hosni Mubarak being put on trial. They believe that he has to be held accountable for the blood of all of those who have died in these clashes, all of those who they say have died under his regime. A lot of the older members of the crowd that we're talking to keep reiterating how proud they are of the youth. One businessman saying I have learned something from these crowds. I have learned how to be positive again, because living under this regime made me live with blinders on. It made me negative. And Egypt already in what they have done this far, they have changed the nation and taught all of us so much -- Wolf.
BLITZER: If he were to announce, Arwa, he is not stepping down, as Egypt's information minister, Anas el-Fekky, told state television, that he is not stepping -- if he were to make that announcement, what do you think would happen at that crowd over there?
DAMON: Well, Wolf, we have been asking a number of people that very question, what their reaction would be if the announcement were to end up basically being a disappointment, that he would somehow say that he would be staying in power.
And a lot of them have been saying that would mean that tomorrow would be a disaster. They are not going to stand down. They're not going to give us this ground that they've won and bled for.
But they are also very worried about that very fact, because, as one person was saying, the crowds here are also being very provoked. They're being very agitated. They've been on a rollercoaster of emotions to have their expectations so high and then back. And that could propel this country towards an even greater crisis.
That is a great concern out here. Peoples hopes are so high, Wolf. You see them smiling at one another. Everybody is talking on the phone what is going to happen, when is going to happen. Coincidentally there is a twitter tag that is going around called "Reasons why Mubarak is late." It's becoming something of a running joke. Amongst those reasons it's because he's trying to figure out how to get his $70 billion out of the country.
That sort of humor aside, people are very worried that the president is going to once again disappoint them and betray them.
BLITZER: If that happens, I can anticipate an explosion of anger from that crowd there. I want everyone to stand by. We're getting ready to hear, we believe, from the president of Egypt, Hosni Mubarak on Egyptian state television. Our breaking news coverage of this historic moment will continue in 60 seconds.
BLITZER: We're back live. You're looking at live pictures an of Tahrir Square where tens of thousands if not hundreds of thousands of people have now gathered in downtown Cairo. They're anticipating that the Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak will announce on Egyptian television shortly is stepping down even though the official information minister of Egypt said that the president is definitely not going to step down.
So the mystery continues right now. We'll just have to wait and see what Mubarak himself does. If he announces he's not stepping down, this crowd will explode in anger as will so many other Egyptians around the country.
We want to welcome back viewers here in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer. We're reporting for you on CNN and CNN international right now. Anderson Cooper is with us, as well. Anderson, I can only imagine, I can only anticipate what that crowd would do if Mubarak goes on television shortly and comes up with some sort of story explaining why he's staying as president and until the scheduled elections in September.
COOPER: Let's look what's just happened in the last couple days. We had earlier this week, the biggest protests we've seen in more than two weeks. And just yesterday, we saw the protests growing to areas outside the parliament, outside the health ministry I believe. Not just in the square but other areas nearby. We heard of strikes taking place in various places around the country. So the momentum is growing for the protesters.
If Mubarak does not satisfy their demands tonight on television, if he comes up short in his statements, this is only going to mobilize them all the more. I mean, this thing is building and building and building. Momentum is on their side. It seems as if the power now has shifted to being in their hands.
So if Mubarak has not heard that and he is not willing to accept down, yes, perhaps violence. But let's not underestimate these protesters. This is a group which has been peaceful for the -- for more than two weeks since this began who defended themselves when attacked by mobs. They -- mobs appeared with weapons, with rocks, with Molotov cocktails and they defended themselves in an extraordinary way and they repulsed a large attack of thousands and thousands of pro-government attackers and they have held on to that square.
But there is no doubt if Mubarak does not step down tonight, does not happened over power in some meaningful real way and either exit the country or they're increasingly saying he can stay in the country, they don't want to the humiliate the man, he doesn't have to leave but they want him to step down. If he does not do that, this will grow.
We can't say whether or not violence will immediately break out. But certainly, the momentum will only build more people, especially now given all these signals that he is going to step down, people's expectations have been raised.
They're tasting in that square, Wolf, I know, maybe the pictures after a while start to look the same to everybody watching around the world, but every day is different in that square. It really is this extraordinary place where people for the first time in their lives, you know, can actually express themselves. We hear people, it's interesting, usually in Egypt, no one wants to talk on camera. People are worried about being identified. In that square people grab you and say videotape me, I want to say something to the world. It's as if they are exhilarated with the ability to actually speak their minds and to say the words that they haven't been able to say, to come with pictures of Mubarak and draw funny things on his face and I mean.
There's -- that's why you see this exuberance. In that is betrayed tonight, there's no telling what will happen in the hours ahead. We're already entering on a new day there but I have no doubt this thing will not stop.
Also the other question is, if he does step down tonight and hands over power to Vice President Suleiman, is that enough for the protesters? I don't think it is. Suleiman is part of the Mubarak regime. Suleiman has been his right-hand man. Suleiman has run the intelligence services which are feared in that country.
This is a man who, yes, he's you know, popular in the United States among officials because he's viewed as a man who can be dealt with and not necessarily corrupt, and he's popular in Israel because he's maintained close relationships with Israel and maintained the peace treaty.
For the protesters, this is a man who has been the closest confidante of Hosni Mubarak, who saved his life in an assassination attempt in Ethiopia. No one is closer to Mubarak than Suleiman. Will the protesters put up with him allegedly transitioning to democracy? I don't know the answer to that, but I do think it's a critical question.
And certainly, the military, Wolf, is I think probably the institution most people, Wolf, would be willing to embrace as some sort of transitional government.
BLITZER: I think it's fair to say that's the only institution in Egypt that might, repeat might, be able to transition towards some sort of democracy and free and fair elections.
Let's go back to the square. Ivan Watson is there right now. Ivan, I know all sorts of rumors are circulating on Twitter and Facebook and the social networks out there. It's what, been almost six hours since the first reports started surfacing that Mubarak would speak on television and announce he's stepping down. But people are getting nervous I assume where you are.
BLITZER: Hold on, Ivan. We're going to try to get your audio up to speed. Fred Pleitgen, did you hear my question?
PLEITGEN: Certainly am, Wolf. I can hear you very well. I do think people might be starting to get a little bit nervous. I think most still believe that Hosni Mubarak will indeed resign today. I have one gentleman here. He's been waiting a long time to speak to us. Thank you very much.
Sir, we were expecting an announcement tonight that Hosni Mubarak might step down. It's taking longer. Are you scared maybe he will not resign today?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, no, never scared. We are waiting for this moment for a long time for 30 years. I am 21 years old. I don't see the anyone but Mubarak.
PLEITGEN: Who do you think should be the next president of Egypt?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Anyone who the people here look to besides him. We have to have elections. We have to have democracy, our rights. We have no rights here in Egypt before. But I think from this square, Tahrir Square, that freedom and justice and liberation and social --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, all things come the first time.
PLEITGEN: So you are sure that today Hosni Mubarak will go?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hosni Mubarak will go. But leave Egypt. Leave Egypt Egyptians. People here -- security dealing with people in very bad way.
PLEITGEN: What is your opinion on the way America is dealing with this?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think America for the first time says for us to choose our president, to have our rights in life. Our people not animals. Americans for the first time very good with us, but we don't want -- we don't need the support from America. The people here, Egyptians, we'll make anything what they want because we know what they want now at this time. And Mubarak will go out. And our dealings, our nations with America, with Europe, all over the world will be in an important way.
PLEITGEN: Thank you very much.
There you have it, Wolf. As you can see people, I would say it's getting a little more edgy as this drags on. People were expecting Hosni Mubarak to speak about 40 minutes ago. It hasn't happened yet. It is getting more edgy. However, as you can see, they are still very, very confident.
One of the other things that's worth mentioning is that I have the impression, I'm sure Ivan would confirm this, that the square is getting a lot fuller by the minute, Wolf.
BLITZER: I'm sure it is. We're going to check in with Ben Wedeman in a moment. Ivan Watson is there, Hala Gorani, Anderson Cooper. We've got all of our reporters on the scene. We'll take a quick break. We're waiting for the president of Egypt Hosni Mubarak to speak on Egyptian television. We'll be back in 60 seconds.
GORANI: Live images of Tahrir Square there in the center of the Egyptian capital. Over the last two and a half weeks, history making developments in Egypt, the most populace Arab nation. What happens here will have an impact inn many other countries in this region.
We are still waiting for President Hosni Mubarak to address the nation. We expect that speech to be live. But it is very difficult to predict the timing of Hosni Mubarak addresses, as Ben Wedeman who joins us now live can tell us. Ben, imagine the mood in the square is getting a little bit more tense as anticipation builds there as demonstrators wait for this very important and crucial speech from their leader.
WEDEMAN: Yes, and maybe this is one last gesture from the president just to keep everybody on edge because what I've seen, and I still see, that people are still lining up despite the fact that the curfew is now two hours and 45 minutes old. People are still coming to Tahrir Square from across the bridge and other parts of Cairo. According to Al Jazeera, there are three million down there in the square. That may be a slight overstatement, but it certainly is packed down there?
GORANI: So of course, this is a difficult question to answer, but with so much expectation coming from demonstrators that Hosni Mubarak will step down, if he doesn't, if he simply transfers some of his powers to the vice president, some of his powers to military, then what?
WEDEMAN: Well, I think if we look at the events since the 25th of January, we've seen that President Mubarak seems to do everything just a little too late to satisfy his critics. If you recall on the 25th and the 28th of January when we had these massive demonstrations in cairo, the attitude of the authorities is, we will ban all demonstrations and we will crack down brutally with the police.
Then President Mubarak came out on the evening of the 28th saying that he will not run for president again. I think we are seeing the speech is about to begin.
BLITZER: Let's go to Cairo. This is Hosni Mubarak. He's speaking.
HOSNI MUBARAK, EGYPTIAN PRESIDENT (via translator): Dear sons and daughters of Egypt, I'm talking to you today to the youth of Egypt in the Liberation Square and all over Egypt.
I am addressing you with a speech from the bottom of my heart, from the father to his sons and daughters. I'm telling you that I am proud of you as a symbol for the new generation of Egypt who calls for a better life and who is committed for this change and who dreams about the future and making it.
I can tell you before anything else that the blood of your mothers will not be wasted, and I can affirm to you that I will not be easy in punishing the people who have caused these injuries. And I will also hold accountable all the people, all the people who committed crimes against you and with the utmost punishment and penalties and deterrent penalties.
And I can tell you to all the family members of these innocent victims that I have been pained for their sake exactly like I have been pained and has broken my heart also and has broken your hearts.
I can tell you that I will respond to your demands and to your voices, and this is a commitment that cannot be reversed. I am also committed and determined to carry out my promises in all seriousness and in all credibility, and I'm really very concerned to implement this without any hesitation.
This is based on the conviction of your own intentions and your own movements and that your demands are just and legitimate. The mistakes can take place in any political system and in any state. But what is important is to recognize them and to correct them and to redress them as soon as possible and to hold accountability the people who committed them.
And I can tell you that I as the president of the public, I do not find -- I have to respond to your calls, but I am also embarrassed, and I will not accept to listen to any foreign interventions or dictations regardless of their sources and regardless of their excuses and alibis.
My dear sons and daughters, my sisters and brothers, I have told in many statements before that I will not nominate myself for the next presidential elections, and that I will be satisfied with what I have done to the country and the homeland for more than 60 years during the years of peace and war. And I'm committed about that, and I'm committed about that in a similar way, and to a similar extent to this responsibility in the protection of the constitution and the interests of the people so that it will be so that the powers will be transferred to whoever the electorate chooses in the new fair and square elections that will be safeguarded by fairness.
This is the promise that I took upon myself before god and before the homeland, and I will keep this promise until we take the Egyptians to the safe side. I have also presented my own vision to come out of this crisis and to achieve what the people have called for and what the citizens have called for in respect of the constitution so that it will not be undermined and in a sense that will achieve stability and achieve the demands of the people but at the same time will also lay out some kind of framework for the smooth transition of the powers among all the sectors in society and in all credibility and in all transparency.
I have presented this vision, and I'm committed in order to get out of these difficult times and to keep up with -- by the other also, to -- for all the people who are concerned about the Egyptian people and the country, so that we can transform this into some kind of reality in harmony, and in consensus that will be implemented also by our armed forces.
We have started a national dialogue, a constructive one, that brought together all the young people who called for this change and all the other political forces, and this dialogue has resulted in some kind of harmony in some view -- in the views and the positions that will put our feet on the right track in order to get out of this crisis and to go on with this dialogue so that we can move on from the general guidelines of the agreement to some kind of roadmap that is very cleared and within a very specific timetable. Day after day that will be -- that will follow the track of peaceful transition until September.
This dialogue, this national dialogue, has also come out with the formation of a committee that will study the amendments of the constitution and what should be -- and the amendments also. And we also formed another follow-up committee that will also be responsible for the implementation of the commitments that I have made upon myself to the people.
And I am also very committed to form these two committees of some very well-known, rely-reputed dignitaries, and some jurisprudent people, and some judicial figures.
In addition to that, the fact we lost some martyrs some tragic events recently that have pained our hearts and that have also pained the conscience of the homeland, I have also instructed some people to start investigation and to get the results as soon as possible to the attorney general so that he will take the appropriate procedures and legal measures and deterrent ones.
I have also received the first report yesterday with the constitutional amendments that are of priority given to me by the committee that I have formed by the legal people and to study these amendments.
I have also responded to this report and to the proposals made in this report. And in accordance with article 89, I have also asked for the amendment of six provisions, articles 76, article 77, articles 88, article 93, and article 189, in addition to the abolition of article 179 and also assure that I'm ready to amend many other provisions that the committee sees appropriate, depending on the need and the justification.
And these amendments of high priority targets the terms for presidency and the positions for transparency and specify the terms of presidency in order to transfer powers and also to supervise the elections in order to have a fair and square elections.
And it also insists on the legal -- on the legal part in order to amend these conditions and amend the constitution. But the proposal abolish article 179 I think should also achieve equilibrium between the protection of the land of the terrorism and to also respect the civil freedoms of all citizens so that it can open up to stop the validity of emergency law and to get the conditions in order to lift the emergency law.
My dear citizens, the priority now is to restore the confidence among the Egyptians themselves and the confidence in our economy and international reputation and the confidence that the change we have started will not be retracted.
Egypt is going through difficult times right now and we cannot do anything that causes damage to our economy and losses to our economy day after day. This will cause a lot of damage and the people who have called for change will be the victims of these difficult times.
These times is not about myself, and it's not about me, Hosni Mubarak, but it is about Egypt and its presence and its --- for its future. All Egyptians are in the same bunker right now, and really we have to keep up with the dialogue we started recently on one team, and we have to not be different about it, and we have to be away from disputes so that we can get out of this current crisis and so that we can restore confidence in our economy and so that we can have saved for all the people and for the people in the streets so they can get on with their normal lives again.
I have been like you, a young man, and I have spent most of my life in defense of its sovereignty and I have seen a lot of wars, and I have seen a lot of failures and a lot of victories. I have lived through difficult times and I have lived through the happiest days of my life when I raised the Egyptian flag over Sinai and I have confronted death, this and many other locations and other places.
I have never succumbed to any international pressure or dictations. I have preserved my dignity and preserved the peace for Egypt and I have worked hard for the renaissance. And I have never tried to have more authority.
And I think the majority of people hear know very well who Hosni Mubarak is, and I think it hurts my heart when I see and I hear from my own colleagues and my own people, but I know the junction that we are facing right now, but I am fully convinced that Egypt will pass these difficult times. But we are also -- we have also to take the higher interests of Egypt and that Egypt should be the first prior for over any other considerations.
I have seen -- I have delegated the vice president in to carry out a lot of powers. And I am very aware that Egypt will come out of this crisis and will not break its will and the will of its people and will rise on its feet again and will stand up on its feet, in all loyalty of its people, and will also get out of these difficult times.
We will prove -- we Egyptians will prove our ability and capacity to respond to all the demands by -- through dialogue. And we will prove that we are servants to anyone and will not be dictated by anyone, and that no one will take the decisions for us, except for the pulse of the streets and the demands of the people. We will prove that, and the determination -- and the Egyptian determination and the coherence and unity of the people, and also in the reputation and the dignity and the identity and the unique identity of Egypt, because this identity is the essence of our existence for over -- for more than 7,000 years.
This spirit will live in us. As long as Egypt and the people of Egypt are still here, this spirit will live in us. It will live in every one of us among the farmers and among the educated and cultured people. It will stay in the hearts of all the young people and old people also, in the cops, in the Muslims, in the consciences and the hearts of people who have not even been born yet.
I am telling you again that I have lived for this homeland, and I am preserving its integrity. And Egypt will always remain -- the interests of Egypt will be above everyone else. It will keep on like that until I deliver this allegiance and the responsibility and the duties I have started from the beginning and I will carry out until the end.
This is the end where I will -- it will be my dear son that will not leave and will also be buried here. And we will be always dignified people until the very end and will be -- will raise our heads and will be always dignified.
May God preserve Egypt and a safe haven, and may -- may its people find its -- the right path, and make -- and God -- may peace be upon thee.