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Military Commanders Say Mubarak Will Step Down Tonight

Via everyone, the major rumor in Egypt right now is that Hosni Mubarak will step down tonight, in advance of what are expected to be the largest protests of the uprising tomorrow. We know that Mubarak will address the nation tonight. A senior military commander told protesters that “all their demands would be met.” Here’s what Channel 4 in Britain is reporting:

Lindsey Hilsum of Channel 4 News is reporting that Hosni Mubarak is going to transfer his powers to Omar Suleiman, his vice-president, tonight. More as soon as I get it.

Hilsum reports that Hossam Badrawi, the secretary general of Mubarak’s NDP party, has told her in that over three meetings yesterday and a phone call today he convinced Mubarak to stand down and hand his powers to Suleiman. He will do this in a broadcast tonight, she says.

I am also hearing conflicting rumours that Mubarak will use a speech on TV tonight to hand his powers to the army. It is unclear if this will mean martial law to clear the protests, or a permanent exit for the president. Badrawi has told BBC Arabic that Mubarak will “answer the people’s demands” in the coming hours. My colleague Jack Shenker told me: “Protesters aren’t certain whether they should be preparing themselves for a celebration party or a massacre.”

There’s still confusion, then, whether Suleiman will receive the powers of the Presidency, or the army. For days, the Mubarak regime has insisted that his resignation would trigger an election within 60 days, so I would expect something other than a formal resignation, something that would keep elections in the future. That could be a temporary imposition of martial law.

Suleiman’s ascension would likely not end the protests. According to the Guardian’s liveblog, one protester reacted to that possibility by saying “all that will happen is that everyone in Tahrir will rewrite their signs, and then carry on demonstrating.”

The speech should happen in a matter of hours…

UPDATE: Al Arabiya says Mubarak’s in Sharm el-Sheik, the resort town near the Israeli border.

UPDATE II: Al Jazeera is now reporting that Mubarak wanted to hand over power to Suleiman, but the military prevented him. An army commander is quoted as saying they “stepped in to save the country.”

UPDATE III: CIA Director Leon Panetta said in an open House Intelligence Committee session that Mubarak “may step down tonight.” According to aides, Panetta was referencing press reports and not intelligence.

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David Dayen

David Dayen