Vowing not to bow to outside forces, Hosni Mubarak said Thursday he would remain in office until after planned elections this fall -- a surprising turn that enraged protesters who were expecting him to step down as president.
"I express a commitment to carry on and protect the constitution and the people and transfer power to whomever is elected next September in free and transparent elections," Mubarak said in a televised address to the nation rocked by unceasing demonstrations against the ruling government.
The speech appeared to fly in the face of multiple reports Thursday that the 82-year-old leader would resign. He did say he would hand over some of his power to Vice President Omar Suleiman, a concession that did not satisfy the crowds in Tahrir Square that grew more restless and began chanting for him to leave. Mubarak did not specify what powers Suleiman was given, only that it was done "in accordance with the consititution."
In reaction to the speech, protesters shouted "Down with Mubarak" and "Get out! Get Out!" and waved their shoes in disgust. Others called for a march on the presidential palace.
One protester told CNN that Mubarak, who has led Egypt for three decades, was inviting more rage by clinging to power. "Egypt will explode," opposition leader Mohamed ElBaradei tweeted following the address, adding that "the army must save the country now."
In a statement, 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."
"We therefore urge the Egyptian government to move swiftly to explain the changes that have been made, and to spell out in clear and unambiguous language the step by step process that will lead to democracy and the representative government that the Egyptian people seek," the president said.
Mubarak told the protesters he honored their commitement and promised to respond to "your demands and your voices." He vowed justice for those injured and killed during the tumult. But he called on demonstrators to disperse for the good of the nation. "The damage to our economy will lead to a situation in which the youth calling for reform will be the first to be affected," he said.
In the months leading up to September's national vote, he said, the government would work on constitutional reform and preparing a smooth transfer of power. Mubarak repeated again that he would not stand in the election.
He said he would consider lifting emergency rule -- which has been in place since he assumed power 30 years ago -- only after "stability is restored."
Implying that the ongoing protests were a result of outside forces, Mubarak said, "We will not accept or listen to any foreign interventions or dictations."
Suleiman, speaking after Mubarak's address, said he has been charged with preserving stability and security in Egypt.
"I am committed to take whatever it takes in order to have an orderly transition," the country's former intelligence chief said, telling the protesters to return to their normal routines.
"I call upon the young people, the heroes of Egypt, go back to your houses. Go back to work," said Suleiman. "Don't listen to radio and TV, whose aim is to tarnish Egypt."
The Egyptian military met Thursday -- without commander in chief Mubarak -- and said it was "in support of the legitimate demands of the people," the Associated Press
reported. In Tahrir Square before Mubarak's speech, excited demonstrators chanted
, "We're almost there." Some flashed "V" for victory signs.
In the moments after the speech, President Obama convened a meeting with his national security team at the White House, the BBC said.
Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) called Mubarak's decision to remain "deeply unfortunate and troubling," and rejected the Egyptian president's claim that outsiders were stoking the protests.
Mubarak, who has held power with an iron hand in Egypt for more than three decades, has been unclear about his intentions since protests began.
Before the speech, White House Spokesman Robert Gibbs said, "We're watching a very fluid situation" in Cairo. "What we're looking for and what the president spoke about many days ago remains our priority: an orderly transition to a free and fair election." Gibbs added: "We've been clear in the many preceding days that what we wanted to see, and most importantly what the people of Egypt wanted to see, was irreversible change."