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Mubarak to Announce That He Will Not Seek Reelection on Egyptian State TV

Aired February 1, 2011 - 14:41   ET


ALI VELSHI, CNN ANCHOR: OK, I want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. This is CNN. We have breaking news. We are expecting to hear from President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt that he will not run for reelection and he will dissolve parliament. We've had this information brought to us by John King in Washington. I also have CNN International anchor Michael Holmes with me right now.

Michael, this is something that has been a source of conflict in Washington. We know that President Obama is meeting this afternoon with Hillary Clinton, national security advisers. They have wanted as John just said, they've wanted Hosni Mubarak to signal that he is doing something about this. Is this the thing they want him to do? Is there an exit plan? Is there a plan b that ensures Egypt now is not going to be taken over by somebody who's not interested in being a partner with the United States?

MICHAEL HOLMES, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: The interesting thing here is, he's not running again is very different from stepping down from office, which is what the people on the street is demanding. That to me is going to be the key. What are the protestors who are out there in the tens of thousands going to say -- let's remember, this election is not until September. Are they going to say, we'll wait another seven or eight months and see what happens.

Meanwhile, he's got that military structure that he's put in again, with the vice president, prime minister, both military guys that he's put in again. So, you're going to have this structure continue to crystallize leading up to September. What happens then? How free? How fair will the elections be? It's not what they're asking for.

VELSHI: So, the question is -- I've got John King in Washington, I've got Jill Dougherty at the State Department. I want to bring Jill into this conversation.

Jill, this is not the revolution that so many of our viewers and so many in the Arab world have been watching evolve or thinking they've been watching evolve. It is a slow evolution of a shift in U.S. policy about Egypt and a shift from President Hosni Mubarak, small steps forward. Is this revolutionary or is it going to be enough?

JILL DOUGHERTY, CNN FOREIGN AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Well, that's the question. Will it really be enough? But I think there's a missing link I'd like to put in here, Ali. And that is that President Obama is the one who decided finally to get that message to Hosni Mubarak, and urging him not to run. And we just got confirmation from the senior U.S. official that that message was delivered by the special envoy, former ambassador Frank Wisner, who went to the region and met with Hosni Mubarak. So, that's the link. It's pretty clear that President Obama realized or decided that this was the moment where it was the end, and that it was advisable that President Mubarak not run again.

So, now, is it a revolutionary situation? Well, I mean, it's very fast-moving. But I think the question is, what happens now? Is that enough for the opposition? Because saying that you're not going to run is one thing. Saying that you're going to step down is another. And the president of Egypt is not saying that he will step down. He's saying, "I won't run." So there are a lot of unknowns. Will the crowds, the opposition think that is it enough?

VELSHI: All right. John King, I know you've been working on this story as well as Jill Dougherty. Is there, is there, a plan beyond this? If the president September an envoy there to say, you need to take some kind of a concrete step and it needs to be public, which is what we're expecting to see from President Hosni Mubarak within the hour quite possibly, this taped announcement that he is not going to run again, do they have a plan B? Do they know who they want to run? Do they -- does the U.S. know who it wants to support? Or is the U.S. going to say, our job is done. Let the chips fall where they may?

JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, it will be somewhere in the middle. The United States would never say, this is who we want to be the next president of Egypt. We do know, as Jill just noted, number one, the most significant thing was the president of United States sent word to president Mubarak that he no longer had his support to stay on and that he should announce publicly, the United States wanted him to announce publicly, he would not be a candidate in the next election.

We know from other sources it is the preference of the United States government that he would step down in time, not immediately. They don't want to create a vacuum, but they want him to reach out. They want the new vice president, the army chief of staff, to reach out to leaders of the opposition, to bring them in, to start a dialogue and form a transitional government up until the next election. And I believe we'll hear from the president of the United States later this afternoon, Ali, if President Mubarak delivers that announcement, which the White House is told is coming but it wants to see it before it believes it. Then I think you will hear from the President of the United States.

And one of the things you will hear from the president of the United States, if we get to that point, and from other leaders as well is that they believe Egypt should reach out and get some international assistance building democratic institutions in a transition up to those elections. VELSHI: We have a lot of news coming in on this breaking story that President Mubarak is going to announce that he will not run again. CNN International anchor Michael Holmes is with me right now. He's been working the story. What have you got.

HOLMES: We've also heard we've been expecting this announcement, a recorded announcement by Hosni Mubarak. We're hearing that it will come up in literally minutes ahead. And when we get it, of course, we'll bring it to you.

One thing that I want to point out, to what John was saying, to many people who might see themselves to replace Hosni Mubarak at any point going forward, to be backed by the United States could be the kiss of death. So, a lot of people aren't going to want the U.S. coming in and saying, well, this guy is great, this guy is not so great for us.

Now, the channel you're watching, by the way, on the right-hand side of your screen is the Egyptian television channel that's going to be running this recorded message, we're told. Not a live speech, a recorded message. When that airs, of course, you'll be seeing it as soon as we will.

But again, that point that backing by the United States doesn't necessarily do you any good in a place like Egypt where less than 20 percent people have a positive approval of the United States.

VELSHI: If you're watching us from around the world, by the way, you're watching CNN with breaking news. Right now, we welcome our viewers from around the world.

Jill Dougherty at the State Department. When we look back at this day five years from now, ten years from now, will it be that the U.S. forced Hosni Mubarak out of office, that the U.S. caused this resignation to happen?

And it's not a resignation, by the way, the announcement he's not running again.

DOUGHERTY: They urged him, but he did not follow what the United States really wanted. The United States does have influence, but it can't change everything. But when you see the writing on the wall, when the president of the United States urges him to do it, when you have people in the streets -- one of the questions was, how long can this go on? And already Mubarak was saying that -- seeing that he had to end his government, have a new prime minister. It was very clear things that had to be done.

Again, I want to make that point, that he's not saying it's over, I'm leaving today. He is saying, I will not run. And that's huge. And neither will my son run. But it's not as if he's leaving the scene forever. And it opens up some questions.

Now what does the United States do? Does it throw its weight behind the prime minister, who is still a representative of that earlier regime, Mubarak's regime. Or does it start working with the opposition and ElBaradei? There are a lot of questions now that have to be ironed out by the administration. But this is a major, major step, if it happens.

VELSHI: This is a remarkable development in the coverage of the protests in Egypt. We are harboring the sources - the resources of CNN here in the United States and around the world. We'll be right back with more information on the announcement that Hosni Mubarak is expected to make momentarily that he will not run again for president of Egypt. Stay with us.


VELSHI: Breaking news right now at CNN. We are expecting momentarily to hear from Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak in a taped recording to an Egyptian television station that he will not run again as president of Egypt. We welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world to CNN. This news has been confirmed by CNN that in an interview that will air momentarily, we expect, Hosni Mubarak will say that he is not running for president of Egypt again.

Let's go straight to John king, our senior -- host of "JOHN KING, USA." John, what have you heard? What's the confirmation that we've got?

KING: Number one, we are told that - senior U.S. officials are telling us that they are told by reliable contacts on the ground in Cairo that indeed President Mubarak has made a decision not to be a candidate for president again election. We are also told, and this is significant, President Obama had the message delivered to President Mubarak that he believed it was critical that he make that announcement.

Now, earlier in the week they were saying an orderly transition. They were being more vague in their language. It's clear they gave President Mubarak a few days, they decided he wasn't moving aggressively enough to reach out to the demonstrators, and he's now received now what I'll just call a nudge. High word from the White House that President Obama expected him to make clear that he would not and his son would not be a candidate in the next Egyptian election.

Now, the question is, what happens now? U.S. officials say their best, latest information is that President Mubarak does want to complete his term, which we know is unacceptable to the demonstrators in the street. So, the question is, as we go into this next chapter, and it is a dramatic new chapter once he makes this announcement that he will not run, what happens? What will the negotiations be?

We will expect to hear from the president of the United States a bit later today after President Mubarak, Ali. We are also told they're getting essentially murky and conflicting information about just how willing President Mubarak now is to reach out to the opposition, to bring some people into the government immediately, and then to negotiate a transition phase up until the election.

So, this is not the end of this drama by any means. But it is a huge and significant step that, with a nudge from the president of the United States, we are told the president of Egypt momentarily will tell his people he will not be a candidate in the next election.

VELSHI: And Egyptian state television, according to our reporting, is now saying that President Mubarak will have a statement shortly. Ben Wedeman and Hala Gorani are there. Arwa Damon is on her way to Tahrir Square, where we have had people gathering for the last 24 hours.

Michael Holmes is with me right now. Michael, here's a question that I have for you. Does President Obama get credit in the Arab street for having pushed somebody who is thought of as a dictator out? Or is there a danger that the U.S. has once again muscled in on a Arab country's leadership?

HOLMES: It will go a bit of both ways. He'll get some credit for having made him make that decision to not stand again, but the risk is always in that part of the world for the U.S. to look like it's interfering. That's obviously something the Obama administration is trying very hard not to appear like it's doing, that they merely suggested to Hosni Mubarak that this might be a good idea and a good time to make this sort of announcement.

What the problem is going to be -- John's talking about what's coming next, that's the big question. He's put in a vice president and he's put in a prime minister, both of whom are very strongly linked to the military, who is very much behind a lot of what we've been seeing in Egypt in recent days in terms of holding things together. The military saying it would not fire on the people was a crucial moment in all of this, and really gave encouragement to those protestors on the street to keep going. Because they knew the army was with them.

As I was alluding to before, one of the great dangers now in who steps into the vacuum when these elections are held, you don't really want to be the U.S. man, so you're going to see Mohammed ElBaradei, if indeed he ends up being a candidate. Amr Moussa, the head of the Arab League, is active in the political situation over there. These are not guys that are going to be want to be seen linked to the United States administration.

The other point being, the next presidential election isn't until September. Those guys on the street, are they going to wait seven or eight months? They haven't been acting like it.

VELSHI: All right. Jill Dougherty at the State Department right now. Jill, your view, in about a minute. Tell me, will this be seen as the U.S. having pushed -- pushed Hosni Mubarak out, and does it matter, given that that election as Michael just said, is in September? Will things calm down enough to let him serve out the rest of his term?

DOUGHERTY: They could, or perhaps they could not. I mean, it will be crucial to see what those people on the street do when they hear the president saying that he is not going to run again. The question is, is that enough for them? Because, as I think John put it, the president of the United States gave the nudge. But really, the inspiration for all of this began on the streets.

This is not as if President Obama decided that Hosni Mubarak had to go. I mean, this was a people's movement that began on the streets that reached critical mass, and then the president of the United States realized that it was just untenable and that Mubarak could not stay in power anymore.

So, looking down the road, remember a few minutes ago you said five years from now? I think it comes down as a huge -- as a chapter in a huge wave of people in the Mideast looking out for their benefit and pushing for what they wanted.

VELSHI: I'm asking you to tell me what happens five years from now. We're not sure what's going to happen five days from now!

Jill Dougherty will stay at the State Department for us. John King will stay covering this. Michael Holmes will remain. Brooke Baldwin will join you in a minute. We have people on the way to Tahrir Square in Cairo. We have coverage around the world on CNN, and we will bring it to you as it happens.

I'm Ali Velshi. We'll be back right after this break.


BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: OK. A fast-developing story at this hour. I want to welcome, of course, our international viewers and my dear friend, Michael Holmes here from CNN International to help me anchor this special coverage of what's breaking right now in Egypt.

Let's get first things first here. CNN has now learned Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak has made an recorded statement to Alhayat Television, and we're expecting to see that air any minute now. Of course, when that happens, we will bring that to you here on CNN.