‘Farewell Friday’ Observed by Protesters after Mubarak’s Defiant Speech [Updated]
[Ed. note: MSNBC reports that President Mubarak may address the Egyptian public shortly. We’ll have an update and feed at the bottom of this post.]
During President Hosni Mubarak’s speech last evening to the Egyptian public, the crowd of pro-democracy protesters began to shout angrily as it became clear that Mubarak would not recognize their demands. The angry shouts have been followed today by enormous crowds in Cairo’s Tahrir Square continuing their demand for an end to the current regime.
Crowds of protesters have also begun to mass around the presidential palace, located about ten miles from Tahrir Square. An NPR journalist on site reported that although there was military present, they were not taking any action as the crowd continued to grow in size, chanting angrily for Mubarak to leave.
The EU is ramping up pressure on Mubarak, apparently in tandem with the U.S. as statements from EU leaders mirror that of President Obama.
In his own televised remarks after Mr. Mubarak’s speech, French President Nicolas Sarkozy said it was inevitable that the Egyptian president would leave office.
Mr. Sarkozy said he hoped Egypt’s fledgling democracy took the time to get political training, structures and principles and not move toward religious dictatorship.
Britain’s foreign secretary William Hague called for an urgent but orderly transition of power, while Germany’s foreign minister said Mr. Mubarak’s speech left the international community more worried than before.
In Brussels, European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso expressed hopes for a peaceful transition in Egypt.
Spain and Denmark have also stepped up their language in demanding Mubarak acede to pro-democracy demands. Denmark in particular stands out as its prime minister Lars Loekke Rasmussen has pointedly called for Mubarak to step down. Will this set the pace for the rest of the EU to follow?
UPDATE — 9:25 a.m. EST — The U.S. State Department also appears to be pushing back firmly against Mubarak’s statement; TIME published an article late last evening in the U.S., reporting that the State Department was working on an aid program for the pro-democracy opposition in Egypt.
…US is preparing a new package of assistance to Egyptian opposition groups designed to help with constitutional reform, democratic development and election organizing, State department officials tell TIME. The package is still being formulated, and the officials declined to say how much it would be worth or to which groups it would be directed.
White House officials declined to say whether any of the new money would go directly or indirectly to the Muslim Brotherhood, Egypt’s most prominent Islamic party.
This could be a trial balloon in search of domestic and foreign political support, or a veiled threat to the Mubarak regime since no details were reported. However such aid could undo the cuts made by the George W. Bush administration to democracy and governance aid for Egypt; one might wonder how this revolution would have played out had the Bush administration not made those cuts.
UPDATE — 9:50 a.m. EST — Earlier reports indicated Mubarak may have left Cairo and possibly Egypt altogether. Al-Arabiya, NBC and CBS report that Mubarak has gone to Sharm el Sheikh in the Sinai Peninsula, but conflicting sources say that Mubarak has left for the UAE.
Al Jazeera reports that Egypt state television reported that foreign news agencies indicate Mubarak has left the country, but that Mubarak is actually at Sharm el Sheikh. Al Jazeera says their sources confirm this.
More updates and live feed after the jump.
Live feed above from Al Jazeera-English; AJE reports that helicopters have flown into and out of the presidential palace, stirring up cheers of “Finally! Finally!” from the pro-democracy protesters.