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President Mubarak Not Stepping Down; Protestors: "We're Going to the Presidential Palace"; Egyptian VP Suleiman Speaks Out
Aired February 10, 2011 - 16:01 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: All right, so there you just heard the president of Egypt, at least according to that translation, I did not hear him utter is the words that, I am stepping down.
I don't know why these crowds seem to be very exuberant, because it would seem to be disappointing. He seemed to be suggesting he was staying in business, at least for the time being. He spoke about the scheduled elections.
But, Fred Pleitgen, you're there at the -- you're on the scene at Tahrir Square. What do you think the folks there think he said? Fred Pleitgen, I don't know if you can hear, but what's the reaction there? Because it didn't sound to me, at least according to our translation --
FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: I will tell you -- they're absolutely -- yes, sorry. I can -- I can hear you, yes.
Listen, they're very, very angry, these people. They're screaming leave, leave, right now. Right now, they're not obviously very happy at all.
So, did you -- were you able to listen to the speech? What do you think now?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think this guy, he doesn't want to leave it in peace. He doesn't want to leave the country in one piece. He just want to tear it apart before he leaves.
I don't know if he has a brain or he his brain somewhere elsewhere. He's saying that he wants to keep the country in one piece and he wants to keep the country safe and dignity, and this, blah, blah, blah. For the last 30 years, he is trying to keep what he is keeping. It doesn't keep anything. He just talking from a different island. He's ruling another country.
PLEITGEN: But you also heard he did not step down. He just did not say that he was --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, no, no, he don't step down. He just said that he is commissioning the vice president of all his rights and of all his actions, which he can do -- what he can do. But in the Egyptian -- all the Egyptian constitution that we are -- they are discussing now, the vice president, he is commissioned to do everything except three things, dismissing the Parliament, dismissing the government, dismissing the constitution, or breaking that constitution in two parts.
OK. What is he commissioning the vice president of? We can't do anything without his (EXPLETIVE DELETED) in the country.
PLEITGEN: So, you're very angry now, I see.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Of course we are. We all are.
He is saying that some of the people of the Egyptian or most of them, they are supporting them. They are not. Today, the physicians, the doctors, they all were here. The lawyers, they all were here. There are actors. They all were here. Protestation is everywhere in the country, everywhere, and all the governments, they are all there. I don't know what he is staying for.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I came from outside Egypt. I am coming from outside Egypt. I came here directly from (INAUDIBLE) to Tahrir Square.
PLEITGEN: You came from outside. Where did you come from? Where did you come from?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: From (INAUDIBLE), from Gulf.
PLEITGEN: Saudi Arabia.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: From Saudi Arabia. I came today only. I came to Tahrir Square. I will not leave here until he go. Or, at the worst, we will kick his (EXPLETIVE DELETED) there.
PLEITGEN: OK. What do you think will happen? Will there be more rage? Will people protest more? Will there be...
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We are not leaving the place. This guy is calling for more rage in the country. This guy is calling for more rage in the country. Those people, they don't leave. They don't want to leave. We don't want him in the country. He is saying that he is our president, and he (INAUDIBLE) our first airstrike in October --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: -- go with his crimes. That's all.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He didn't. In (INAUDIBLE) October and (INAUDIBLE) you can go there. You can take your camera and go there. (INAUDIBLE) He didn't lead the first strike.
As you can see, Wolf, people here absolutely enraged by the speech that they have just heard, saying that they feel Hosni Mubarak is absolutely out of touch with reality, and that they will not leave until he steps down.
And I can tell you, tomorrow is Friday, which is usually a day of massive protests. And I think that's exactly what's going to happen, Wolf.
BLITZER: Yes. We did hear, at least according to our translation, Fred, we did hear President Mubarak say he would delegate some powers to the vice president, Omar Suleiman, but we did not hear, at least according to our translation, the president of Egypt saying he was stepping down.
If anything, he seemed to be suggesting he was going to stay in business, at least until the September elections. He had all sorts of formulas for making sure they would be free and fair elections.
Let's bring in Ben Wedeman.
Ben, I don't know if you were listening to the speech in the original Arabic or in English, but what is your sense? Because I didn't hear, at least according to our translation, Hosni Mubarak say he was leaving.
BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: No, he didn't say that, Wolf. He said that he had delegated some of the presidential powers to the vice president, Omar Suleiman, but let's keep in mind that it was only the 29th of January when he appointed Suleiman as the vice president. And, therefore, naturally, he will have some of those powers.
What we heard was a president speaking in the first person as the president, saying, I will do this, I will do that, I will form committees, I have instructed. There's -- there was no hint whatsoever in that speech that he has in any way decided to relinquish most of his powers as the president. And that would explain why you are hearing this incredible uproar down in the square.
Clearly, he came nowhere near, Wolf, to satisfying the demands of the people. If anything, he's just enraged them even move.
Well, let me bring Anderson Cooper in.
Anderson, you were listening together with all of us, all of our viewers around the world. We were told he was going to say, you know what? I'm stepping down. He did not say that. He didn't even seem to come close, other than saying he was going to give some new powers to the vice president, Omar Suleiman.
Is that what you heard as well, Anderson?
ANDERSON COOPER, HOST, "ANDERSON COOPER 360": What we heard were the same lies that we have heard from him and his regime for more than two weeks now.
What we heard is a man who clearly believes that he is Egypt. I was taking notes during what he said. He kept repeating this lie that this is all some sort of foreign interference, that these protesters are somehow -- and that's something we have heard on state television, that they're being paid, that they're being motivated to go there, they're being paid $100 or 100 euros, depending on what report you hear.
He talked about that they will not accept to listen to any foreign interventions and dictation, trying to play up on Egyptian national pride, saying that they're resisting the United States and others from -- who want to dictate to Egypt what they want.
Again, these are lies of a regime who is trying to stay in power. He says, it's not about me, Hosni Mubarak, it's about the people of Egypt.
What you are looking at are the people of Egypt. It's all about Hosni Mubarak, and he believes it's all about him. He believes he is Egypt. He continues to talk about getting out of a crisis. He believes what you are seeing is a crisis.
That is not the crisis. The crisis is what his government has done to try to attack those peaceful demonstrators, shutting down the banks, shutting down the Internet service, shutting down the trains, attacking them first with Billy clubs and sticks from his riot policemen, and when that didn't work, switching to thugs, pro- government thugs.
He keeps talking about, you know, playing up that we are not servants to anyone. We will not take dictation. I have never succumbed to international pressure, he said. He said, I have lived for this homeland. I will not leave. We will always be dignified.
And he went on to repeat this -- these lies about that a national dialogue, that he's undertaken a national dialogue and that they have now committees working on how to amend the constitution. This is a constitution which has allowed emergency powers to stay in place for 30 years.
These protesters are saying the constitution is not valid. The constitution is a constitution which has allowed a dictatorship to rein unchecked. It's not about making a few amendments here and there. It's about fundamentally rewriting the constitution. It's about fundamentally changing the regime.
He talks about that they have appointed committees to look at constitutional changes and another committee to look at how to implement those constitutional changes.
Well, we know who is on those committees. Those are judicial figures and dignitaries aligned with the Mubarak regime. These are cronies of Hosni Mubarak. These is not people -- this is not a broad cross-section. One of the things the Obama administration is continuing to push for is a greater representation in the people that they are talking to.
They haven't talked to Mohamed ElBaradei. They haven't talked to a number of the young people who are really behind these demonstrations. They have talked to a few people, but they really haven't reached out to try to get a broad cross-section of people, the kind of broad cross-section of people that will be necessary in order to actually get real democratic institutions.
The reason those people are mad -- and it maybe sounds like they're waving flags and it sounds like they're cheering -- they are furious. This is a slap in the face. This is stepping on the grave, on the blood of the Egyptian people that has been spilled for more than two weeks now in that square that we're looking at, Wolf.
BLITZER: Anderson, we have gone back to the translation, the Arabic translation, our experts, our Arabic speakers. And when he said he was going to transfer some powers, it was precise.
He didn't say he was transferring powers to the vice president. He was transferring -- quote -- "some of the powers" to the vice president, suggesting --
COOPER: It's all lies. It doesn't matter.
BLITZER: Yes, suggesting he's staying in power. He's not transferring all power to the vice president. He's suggesting -- he's saying transferring some of the powers.
So, he clearly sees himself, Anderson, as you correctly point out, as the president of Egypt. He's not going anywhere. He's staying where he is. And as we anticipated, this crowd, the thousands, the hundreds of thousands who have gathered at Tahrir Square, they're exploding in anger right now.
We should not be surprised, especially because they were tasting Mubarak going down. They thought for the last five or six hours, he was leaving. He is not leaving. He's creating committees. He's transferring some of the powers to his vice president, his hand-picked vice president, Omar Suleiman, but he did not utter the words that he's leaving, he's stepping down.
He sees himself as the president of Egypt. He is staying in power right now.
COOPER: Also, Wolf, Wolf...
BLITZER: Yes, go ahead, Anderson.
COOPER: Wolf, he continues to paint himself as the bulwark of stability. He -- what he has done for 30 years and what he continues to do to now is try to make it a choice of two options, either Mubarak or chaos.
He continually in this speech tonight said, the change we have started will not be retracted. We are going to going through difficult times. We cannot do anything to damage our economy.
He continually talked about getting out of the crisis and restoring the economy, have safety for people so they can get on with their lives.
What has damaged the economy, though, is the Mubarak regime's attempt to isolate and kill these protesters. It's the Mubarak regime again who shut down the Internet, who shut down the train service, who have closed the banks.
Those things didn't have to happen. That's -- they were trying to manipulate and create a crisis, so that Egyptians who were on the fence, who weren't in the square would say, oh, my gosh, the only choice is between Mubarak and stability or these protesters in the square who are causing all this chaos.
Again, the chaos has been caused by the Mubarak regime. These are lies which we continue -- which this regime continues to try to sell, not only to the people of Egypt, but to the world -- Wolf.
BLITZER: And it was only a few moments ago before this speech the crowd was singing, dancing, they were very happy. This crowd, right now, as our viewers around the world can see, they are not happy right now.
Let's bring in Hala Gorani. She was in Egypt last week.
Hala, you speak Arabic as well, so you understand that Mubarak was very precise in saying he is not stepping down, he's merely handing over some responsibilities to his own hand-picked vice president, Omar Suleiman.
HALA GORANI, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR/CORRESPONDENT: He's just saying publicly what's really been the case at the top levels of this regime since the vice president was actually nominated to his post. Effectively and de facto within this regime Omar Suleiman has been holding the meetings, has been negotiating with some of the opposition members. So he's held that role really of the top executive decision- maker for the last several weeks, so that's nothing new.
There's a lot of disappointments coming from Tahrir Square. Many observers are saying this is really what 30 years as a dictator, as an autocrat will do to a person, completely out of touch with the will of the street in Cairo, and in other big cities across Egypt.
Ivan Watson is overlooking Tahrir Square. These pictures we're looking at, this live video feed, Ivan, shows people extremely disappointed and some very angry.
IVAN WATSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hala, I'm watching hundreds of people leaving Tahrir Square and they're chanting, "the blood of the martyrs, we're going to the presidential palace, we're going to the presidential palace" just minutes after Hosni Mubarak concluded his speech, during which the crowd was chanting at points, "leave, leave" or "he leaves, then we leave," the suggestion that this crowd is going to try to -- or at least part of it trying to move to the presidential palace, which is quite a distance from here.
If they do in fact try to do that, that is going to ratchet up -- that is going to ratchet up tensions in the capital, because that is far beyond the confines of Tahrir Square. There are a number of military checkpoints between here and the presidential palace. There's been talk about that in past days.
If they do in fact try to do in fact try to do that, you could have potentially a standoff between the police at those checkpoints and hundreds if not thousands of angry demonstrators. So we're going to watch that very closely to see whether or not an actual push does take place.
We do know that two nights ago a group of demonstrators broke out of Tahrir Square and they advanced on parliament and occupied that street in front of the gates of parliament. They've been conducting two nights of a sit-in there, and they have said to us that they're going to continue ratcheting up the pressure.
Hosni Mubarak has said he's not stepping down, and now it's up to the demonstrators in some way to respond. So we're going to have to keep a very close eye on this if they are in fact going to try to push through barricades and head to the presidential palace.
GORANI: Ivan, how many people are we talking about here in terms of the number that's peeled off to go to the presidential palace because this is five or six miles away from Tahrir Square, as opposed to the parliament, which is much closer? How many people did you see peel off from the main crowd?
WATSON: I probably say about 500, 600 people marching through the crowd here and they seem to be funneling out past the Egyptian museum right now.
It is not, by far -- there does seem to be another column of people pushing through as well. And the only way to keep an eye on this, probably, is to step out of the square to see where people are going to go right now.
GORANI: All right, but the mood in the square right now one of anger, one of disappointment. What are the -- the protesters have pledged to stay there until President Mubarak steps down. What do you hear their plans are right now? Are they going to continue to remain there in Tahrir in greater numbers with just as much enthusiasm?
WATSON: Well I think one good sign of what the protestors intent is it's a little difficult to see from here, but throughout the evening as the street party was going on and people were waiting for the protest, one group of men started building a small house out of plywood. We've seen a tent city sprout up here, and now they're starting to build small shelters, small wooden constructions as well. They have made very clear they're not going out anywhere. They have expanded their sit-in the past 48 hours to other places. We've also seen labor unrest, we've seen strikes popping out, breaking out in different industries in different cities around the country.
Hosni Mubarak has thrown down the gauntlet yet again, saying he's not going to step down. He is now more -- he's definitely faced today more protests, and the question now will be what will tomorrow bring. Will the labor unrest continue to grow? That's going to be a major challenge.
And tonight, will these angry people who were just moments ago dancing in circles, singing and chanting, celebrating, who are now very angry and swearing that they are going to march on the presidential palace, will that in fact take place tonight? And that's something to keep a very close eye on right now.
GORANI: And as we mentioned before, the presidential palace there in Heliopolis, five or six miles away from Tahrir Square, heavily guarded by tanks, as it has been for the last few weeks.
Tonight the biggest headline coming from President Mubarak's speech is exactly what he did not say, and he did not say he was stepping down. Announcing that he would transfer some powers for the vice president and make some amendments to the constitution not satisfying protesters tonight -- Wolf.
BLITZER: A development -- I think the people at Tahrir Square, people in Egypt, people all over the world, Hala, are shocked that the president of Egypt, Hosni Mubarak, has not announced what they thought they would announce, that he was stepping down.
Fareed Zakaria is now joining us now.
Fareed, and this has now taken on an ominous new development as some of these protesters appear to be getting ready to march towards the presidential palace, where Mubarak may or may not be hiding out.
FAREED ZAKARIA, HOST, "FAREED ZAKARIA GPS": Wolf, that's exactly right. One hopes that history does not mark this as the moment this revolution turned.
For two weeks, the demonstrators have been peaceful, they have been entirely Democratic, they have been incredibly honorable, but they have been broken up, they have been beaten, they regime has tried to divide the opposition, it has tried to make phony concessions. The one thing the regime has not done is exceed to their principal demand.
The great danger here, Wolf, is that things are going to get radicalized. That what is going to happen is that the opposition, the protests, the crowds will get angrier and angrier. They're going to draw perhaps more violent people.
And that is, in a sense, what the regime is hoping for. In a strange sense, I think the Mubarak regime is trying to bait the crowd at Tahrir Square, and is hoping for violence, is hoping for some kind of march onto the presidential palace that seems to get violent. Then they can step in and in the guise of restoring order return to the military rule, return to the martial law that they want to consolidate.
That's the danger here. This might be a turn that history will record as the moment that things went awry.
BLITZER: Fareed, hold on a moment, because Ben Wedeman is right there and he's watching what's going on.
Ben, if you can hear me, well it looks like these people, I don't know where they're marching to, but this is right underneath our own camera.
WEDEMAN: I can hear you. I can hear you, Wolf.
BLITZER: Ben, where are these people going?
WEDEMAN: Well, these people have left Tahrir Square and they're heading down to the Corniche, which is the road by the Nile that leads to State Television. And one of the things that we've been hearing day after day by the protestors is either they're going to go to the palace where Mubarak lives at the Hadia (ph) in Heliopolis, or they're going to storm State Television. And although there are many army tanks in front of it, clearly they're heading toward that direction among others, because of course, State TV is considered to be sort of the mouthpiece for the regime here.
BLITZER: So they're -- this is obviously an ominous new development, and they may believe as well since Mubarak was just on State Television, maybe he's over there. Presumably he wasn't, he was at the palace in his own studio over there, but this has taken a very ominous new development.
Fareed, you're still with us. Either they're going to State Television or they're going to the palace or they're going to both, but it's now approaching midnight over there, it's about 11:30 at night, and these people are angry, they're frustrated, they're certainly deeply disappointed that Mubarak is staying in business.
ZAKARIA: The regime has had three strategies, in a sense, Wolf.
They're all about running out the clock. Run out the clock on the protesters, just keep staying put, don't give in action eventually people will have to go to work. Well, that hasn't worked.
Run out the clock on the international media, one day we'll have to go home. So far that hasn't worked.
And run out the clock on the American administration, and so far the Obama administration continues to pressure them.
So it's absolutely striking that they are not giving in despite the fact that there's a lot of pressure coming at them.
BLITZER: The other thing that was worrisome to me, Fareed, once again Mubarak as speech, he's talking about foreign intervention, don't listen to these outsiders, we're a proud Egyptian nation. He seemed to be suggesting that foreigners were behind some of what they see as they plots against Egypt.
Did you notice those remarks he made?
ZAKARIA: Wolf, that has been a standard Mubarak tactic. In 2005, when elections were held and Ayman Nour ran against him, he claimed that Ayman Nour was an American agent. He used the fact that the Bush administration was pushing for democracy to discredit every prodemocracy activist in Egypt. So this is quite familiar.
What I was also struck by, as you noted before, Wolf, was the delusional quality to the speech. The idea that he spoke for Egypt. That what the crowd was telling him is could you take care of the people who have done violence to us.
You know, he talked about the crowd's (ph) legitimate demands, but of course their number one demand is he leave. In fact, the number demand of the crowd seems to be that he leave the country.
So there is a kind of bubble that has been created. In some ways, it may truly be delusional He's been only in power for 30 years in a pharaoh-like condition, only hearing good news and yes men. And that you could see in a sense on television tonight. He didn't seem to understand that the crowd's anger was directed at him.
BLITZER: And at the end of his speech, he made the point of saying no one takes decisions for Egypt, no one presumably from the outside makes decisions for Egypt.
All right, the crowd is beginning to move. These are angry people because of the Egyptian leader, Hosni Mubarak, did not say he was stepping down. He came up with all sorts of other indications that maybe he would hand over some powers to his vice president, but he's the president of Egypt and he's staying put. He says he will fight for Egypt as a proud Egyptian leader.
And some of these people are presumably walking over to the TV station, some are going maybe to the presidential palace.
Fred Pleitgen is down at Tahrir Square for us.
So what are the folks over there saying to you, Fred? What are you seeing and hearing?
PLEITGEN: Well, they're very angry obviously. They've been screaming "leave, leave, we won't leave." They've been obviously screaming, "go, go." They've been screaming, "Mubarak the coward must stand down." So they're very, very angry.
I have a couple of folks with me.
You guys speak English as well, right. What did you think Mubarak's speech? What do you think of all this?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mubarak, game over. Game over.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think Mubarak is trying to gain time over again just to go with his crimes. He's trying to deceive the people over again. We don't trust to him. We have started something and we will never give back. We won't step down. We don't trust him anymore. And the problem is not only Mubarak, the problem is also the gangsters around him.
PLEITGEN: The gangsters around him?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.
PLEITGEN: Do you think some people will try to march to the presidential palace or to the Information Ministry?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I have heard something like this, but I am not quite sure actually. About myself, if people move to the palace of Hosni Mubarak, I will move with them.
PLEITGEN: What do you think Hosni Mubarak is thinking? Because he blames foreign intervention, he blames foreigners for all of this, but you are the Egyptian people, aren't you?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, actually this is us, and for the first time we are free to say yes or not by our own will. And for the first time, we want to say to him, we hate you. Actually we hate Hosni Mubarak, not only nowadays but since 30 years ago because he is not honest person.
He occupied Egypt or what the people think that he's ruling Egypt, this is not correct. He's occupying Egypt. He takes the wealth of Egypt. He takes all our freedom. Nobody is free to do anything. Nobody is free to express his will.
And actually, in the past, so many people were depressed. About myself, I was depressed. I didn't feel I have any will to do something positive, because I will not gain anything. I didn't care if I lose something, because I already don't have anything. But nowadays, I care about Egypt and nowadays I love Egypt.
PLEITGEN: What do you think will happen now? Tomorrow is Friday. Friday is always a day of big crowds. How many people will come here? What will happen tomorrow?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I expect -- I expect demonstrator of the Egyptians will come tomorrow. I expect tomorrow will be a point of change. I think so.
PLEITGEN: Thank you very much, sir. Thank you. Thank you.
As you can see, Wolf. People are very, very angry.
Wolf, back to you.
BLITZER: All right, you're seeing also a picture of President Barack Obama. He's getting aboard Marine One after landing on Air Force One. He spoke earlier in the day. He seems to believe, at least according to Leon Panetta the CIA director, that Mubarak would be stepping down as early as tonight, but Mubarak did not say that.
John King is here with us.
John, this is -- I think this surprised a lot of U.S. officials as well. You heard Leon Panetta tell Congress that there were strong indications -- this is the CIA director -- that Mubarak was getting ready to announce he's stepping down on State Television.
JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, I was just having an email exchange with a senior U.S. official who said, quote, "Not what we were told would happen, not what we wanted to happened."
They were told this morning by what they described as ranking and reliable sources in the Egyptian government that President Mubarak was going to yield power, and they expected that to be to his vice president.
Now he yielded some power to his vice president. That is what we are learning after the speech. So the question now is it's obviously not good enough for that crowd in the square, we know it's not good enough for the administration, the question is what will they do next. Every time they say go, Mubarak has used it as a rhetorical weapon against them, if you will, a rhetorical weapon. You've mentioned in the conversation with Fareed about the outsiders.
Here's a question I would pose, though, at this moment -- where is the Egyptian military in all this? Because a top commander went into that square this morning and said, your demands will be met.
BLITZER: Fully met.
KING: Fully met. So, I think there's a huge question going forward about, does President Mubarak plan other steps that he was to proud and too stubborn to say in his speech? Or is he that defiant, that delusional, to borrow Fareed's word to hold on. And then, what happens in society? What will the military do now that it has promised to protect those demonstrators, and they are getting angry.
BLITZER: Fareed Zakaria is watching this with us as well. Fareed, there are now reports that the Egyptian vice president, Omar Suleiman, will address the nation as well on state TV. I don't know what else he's got to say, although he has a few additional powers that President Mubarak has granted him, but remember this is his hand- picked vice president, Fareed, and this crowd is really angry.
ZAKARIA: I think the conversation you were having with John King is actually -- absolutely the crucial one. What is the military going to do? So far, it seemed as though the military was distancing itself from Mubarak. But today, it seems to have made a fateful decision. It has backed Hosni Mubarak in his decision not to step down, and his decision to agree to a cosmetic transfer of some powers.
That places the Egyptian military in a very difficult place. The crowds have been chanting, "The people and the military are one." And at some level, of course, is true because the Egyptian army is a conscript army.
But the generals and the people are no longer one. The generals are siding with Mubarak, they siding with Suleiman, and they are siding with something that the protesters in Tahrir Square do not want.
Why they made that decision is a very interesting question. Remember, this is a military dictatorship. The military has enormous privileges, from economic, military, political. And they may be trying to preserve their regime and manage this transition as tightly as they can, but certainly it's not what the protesters wanted. They wanted a much more rapid and complete transfer of power.
BLITZER: You know, he said a lot of nice things in that speech, Hosni Mubarak, Fareed. He called for democracy, he called for new elections. He said he wouldn't run in September. He said maybe we could even consider eliminating the emergency decrees that have been in business for 30 years since 1981.
But he made it clear, he's staying, honest, president, until September. He's not going anywhere. He gave no indication he's leaving. You know what I want to do? I just want to listen very briefly to what this crowd is chanting in Tahrir Square.
BLITZER: All right. You can see that angry crowd. You know, it's only half an hour, an hour ago when they were dancing, they were singing, they were laughing, they were smiling. At one point, we can juxtapose that image of happiness when they thought he was going to announce he's stepping down to what we're seeing right now. Anger. They're furious right now.
Hala Gorani is with us as well. But here's Omar Suleiman, the vice president, on Egyptian television.
(JOINED IN PROGRESS)
OMAR SULEIMAN, VICE PRESIDENT OF EGYPT (via translator): This is a very historic hour in the history of the homeland. People are concerned about the stability of Egypt. We call upon you to unite and to think rationally and to look forward to the future.
The youth movement of 25th of January has succeeded in incurring a very important change in the process of democracy, and the change has already started. And the constitutional decisions have been taken, and the committees have been formed regarding the decisions taken by the president in his first speech on February 1st.
What the president declared today affirms again one more time his national sense and the response to the demands of the people and his commitment to the pledges that he made upon himself. And it also proves for his awareness of the danger and the gravity of the very critical moment that Egypt is going through right now. Mr. President has also put -- has made a priority of the interests of the Egypt for over any other consideration, and he also is responsible for the national action in order to preserve the safety and security of Egypt and the stability of Egypt and the preserve -- preservation of its gains and achievements. And to repel all the dangers against people and to restore tranquility into the hearts of the people and to restore life to normal -- normalcy. I ask -- I call upon all the people to continue to achieve this objective, and I have no doubt that the people will also be able to protect its own interests.
We have opened the door of dialogue and we have reached some understanding and a road map to achieve most of the demands in accordance with the given time. And the door is still open for more dialogue. And in this framework, I would like -- in this context, I would like to confirm the following. That I am committed to take whatever it takes in order to have an orderly transition of powers in accordance with the provisions of the constitution, and I'm also committed to implementing all that I have taken, all the pledges that I have taken for the national dialogue and what we have agreed to do later.
And I also preserve the achievements of the youth movement and also to restore the confidence among us in respect of the law and the constitution. And I will also achieve all the demands of the people by -- through dialogue and through a civilized dialogue within this context.
I call upon all the citizen to look to the future and to -- and in our hands, we are able to make a very bright future and to be full of freedom and democracy. The people of Egypt are heroes, and they will not go after chaos and the dangers of chaos and will not allow the agendas of danger to have any existence among us.
Let us work together. Let's follow the same track on a new path that will achieve the aspirations of the people and the young people and the generations with a good life and a safe life that is very stable, that is prevalent with love of the homeland, that we need to preserve and to sacrifice for its sake with everything we own.
I call upon the young people and heroes of Egypt, go back to your houses. Go back to your work. The homeland needs your work. Let's build together. Let's develop together, and let's be creative together. Do not listen to the satellite stations that have no objective but to -- but to have sedition among people and to weaken Egypt and to mar its image. Just listen to your consciences and to your awareness of the dangers that are around you.
We have started -- we have already started, depending on God and depending on our institutions and depending also on the armed forces that have also preserved the revolution of the young people and have defended the constitutionality of the homeland and also preserved the safety and security of the people and their properties. It is high time that we work together. And let's work -- walk together in solid belief - belief to come out of the crisis and to face the challenges. We will work together in one team and in one determination, one Egyptian determination that will never be lenient.
I have pledged to God and to you also that I will work for the homeland with everything that I own in order to preserve its security and the growth of its people in the name of God. Work and God will see your work, and the prophet will see and the believers will see, may God's peace be upon thee.
BLITZER: All right. So there he is. Omar Suleiman, the vice president of Egypt. If there were any doubt about what the president of Egypt, Hosni Mubarak, said or didn't say, it was all cleared up with Omar Suleiman. Omar Suleiman making it clear that Hosni Mubarak is not stepping down. That he's saying go back to your houses, go back to work, don't listen to the satellite stations who are fomenting all these problems. Listen to your conscience, have a civilized dialogue, we're going to work ahead for an orderly transition, he says, to the elections, the free elections. He warns against chaos, especially chaos that's being inspired from outside of Egypt.
Anderson Cooper, you were there. You know, I can only imagine what's going to happen in the coming hours, but especially tomorrow, after Friday prayers in Cairo, when all of this is absorbed by the pro-democracy protesters.
COOPER: It's going to be an extraordinary -- the next 12 to 24 hours will be an extraordinary 12 to 24 hours to witness, and we'll, of course, going bring it to you all.
But what we have just heard from vice president Suleiman, who again, I just point this out to those who haven't been following this closely - is the closest confidant Mubarak has as a man who's run his intelligence services, the feared intelligence services, a man who saved Mubarak's life from an assassination attempt in Ethiopia.
What we are hearing from him, frankly, are the same lies we have continued to hear from him for some two weeks now. He has all along tried to paint the protesters you are witnessing in the square as somehow agents of Israel or Hamas or Hezbollah or some strange combination of all of those. Or as somehow lackeys of satellite news channels of foreigners who are trying to influence events on the ground in Egypt. None of that obviously is the case, but he is clearly trying to appeal to many of the Egyptians whose voices who have not yet joined these protesters when he says that people are concerned about stability. We call on you to think about the future. There is a deep strain in Egypt that yearns for stability, and Mubarak has provided that for 30 years.
He's touching those buttons of national pride, of the desire for stability, and trying to paint -- he keeps calling these protesters the youth movement, and keeps -- and their line, and perhaps that's why we had the minister of defense coming to the square saying all your demands are going to be met.
As far as the government is concerned, as far as the regime is concerned, their argument is they have met these demands. They have met the youth movement's demands. Which is a lie, of course, but they claim they have started this national dialogue. They have met with youth leaders. They haven't really met with the real people who are behind this and not with a broad cross-section of people. But they are claiming that these amendments to the constitutional they're going to make are all based on the demand made by young people. Again, they're trying to drive a wedge between these protesters and make a distinction between these protesters and the rest of the people, the rest of Egypt which wants stability, which wants to see this crisis end.
The fact that, Wolf, that he's saying to the people in the square, go home, go back to work, this is exactly what he said last week when he said, you know, we're not going to push them out of the square, but we're going to talk to their parents and get the parents to tell them to come home. It's a patronizing tone that only seems to anger more the people in the square, Wolf.
BLITZER: It certainly does. As you say, the next 12 to 24 hours will be critical, because these folks are angry, they're deeply frustrated. They thought he was going to announce he was stepping down. He did not announce he was stepping down. If anything, he made it clear that he was staying put, at least until September, which is what he said last week. So, in effect, nothing much has changed.
Fareed, I'm always struck how when people are in trouble, some of these leaders, they blame it on foreigners. But in this particular case, these foreign satellite stations. I assume he's refers to Al Jazeera or some of the Arabic-language stations like al Arabiya or whatever. But he's making it sounds like it's all their fault, the unrest in Egypt.
ZAKARIA: Well, and probably CNN as well. I think this is a tried and true tactic for the Egyptian regime. Egypt is a very nationalist country, it's a very proud people. It has a 7,000-year history, as President Mubarak pointed out.
But I don't think it's going to work. I think what you have just witnessed is Omar Suleiman discrediting himself as any kind of a transitional figure. There was a possibility that Omar Suleiman, the vice president, the first vice president Egypt has had in 30 years, could have been the man who ushered in a new Egypt. He wouldn't have lasted, but he would have been the guy who brokered it all.
But he has decided to stick with his guns and stick with his boss. As Anderson points out, very important to remember, this is a former general, former head of military intelligence, and Hosni Mubarak's consigliere. That is the precise relationship. He is the closest adviser to Hosni Mubarak. He's decided he's going to stick with his boss.
And it's a tragedy because what it means is the regime has dug in, the military is now backing Mubarak, and the result is that the gap between the protestors and the regime seems unbridgeable. Something is going to have to give.
The regime is hoping that it can wait out these protesters, but I just -- I think the big mistake for the last two weeks that the regime has made is that it's kept assuming that these people are going to go home. And they just don't go home, and they keep getting bigger and bigger and stronger and stronger. And tomorrow will be, in a sense, a very crucial day, because my guess is you will see the largest protests you have ever seen in Egypt tomorrow.
BLITZER: Yes. And we'll of course be watching it every step of the way.
I just want to bring Ben Wedeman into this conversation.
Because, Ben, you speak Arabic, and I understand -- well, unfortunately we don't have Ben Wedeman. We'll get to Ben in a mom.
But Hala, you also speak Arabic. And you know what? These protesters, the pro-democracy protesters, the anti-Mubarak demonstrators who are out there, deeply disappointed. And as Ivan Watson was saying, some may decide to march on the presidential palace. As Ben Wedeman said, some of them may be marching towards the state television station.
One event can have an enormous impact in what's going to happen in terms of the situation on the ground.
GORANI: And these are two, Wolf, symbols of the regime, the presidential palace, which is about six miles away from Tahrir Square; the TV building as well, sort of one of those symbols of the autocratic power, the autocratic leadership of Egypt, the state television through which so much and so many of the messages coming from this regime have been communicated to the people over the last 30 years.
The big difference, of course, is the satellite news channels in Egypt. These didn't exist 30 years ago.
The Egyptian people, through the Internet, through Al Jazeera, other satellite news channels, have been opened to the world. They know there is an alternative. And more recently, over the last two months, they've followed events in Tunisia, a great inspiration to these pro-democracy activists.
I was struck as Omar Suleiman, the vice president, spoke of roadmaps, of constitutional amendments, of sort of a timetable to transition into democracy, reiterating, using the same language of President Mubarak, and calling on the young people to go home. He's done that before, they haven't listened to his calls. But once again, blaming the satellite news channels.
And Wolf, you'll remember that the last time Vice President Suleiman openly blamed satellite news channels for unrest and for making Egypt look bad, we remember, very clearly, because we were part of it, journalists were then deliberately targeted the next day on the streets of Cairo and Alexandria. So that is also something to look out for as we continue to monitor there the situation in Cairo and elsewhere in Egypt in the hours ahead.
Another interesting point is how Suleiman is sending mixed messages. On the one hand, saying go home to the protesters. But on the other, calling this movement the "Youth Revolution," which is something he hasn't done before.
So, as we have experienced with this vice president, Omar Suleiman, this former head of intelligence, he's kind of speaking two languages. He's kind of speaking the old language of the regime and trying as much as he can to speak the new language of the revolution. But in the midst of it all, possibly confusing everyone.
But what is clear is that Mubarak stays in power, and so does the old regime, Wolf, right now. And we're going to have to wait for the reaction of these protesters that are deeply disappointed today.
BLITZER: Yes, they will be deeply disappointed. I think they're deeply disappointed at the White House as well.
John King is here.
John, the president is now back at the White House, and he has an unscheduled meeting, but an emergency meeting, I think it's fair to say, with his top national security advisers. They're going to assess what's going on.
KING: And the White House, let it be known, that he watched President Mubarak's speech on Air Force One coming back from a trip out to the Midwest to talk about some economic initiatives. This is not what the administration was told President Mubarak was going to do, it is certainly not what the administration wanted President Mubarak to do. And now the administration has to decide what to do next.
It has said be more specific. It has said meet the demands of the protesters. How much leverage, what leverage does the administration have yet?
Does it now threaten, A -- we have seen reporting from Nic Robertson and others -- that the Saudis have told the Egyptians, don't worry, if the Americans cut off your aid, we'll step in and give you that money. So we are at this very delicate moment.
We thought today would be a tipping point. The question now is, does it become a tinderbox?
And I think the greatest thing before us at the moment, with Mubarak and his vice president stubbornly digging in, we're about to find out how deep and strong this revolution is.
BLITZER: And it doesn't look like there's any daylight at all between President Mubarak and Vice President Suleiman. They seem to be both on the same page.
Let me bring Ben Wedeman into this conversation.
Did you get any sense, Ben, that there was any daylight between Mubarak and Suleiman?
WEDEMAN: None whatsoever, Wolf. Really, he just reiterated many of the points made by the president. And that, I think, is a key point here, is that many people had thought that Suleiman might be a transitional figure from the old regime to some sort of new, more open regime. But we heard was a repetition of many of the same allegations that we had heard before, that somehow the satellite channels were instigating people into conducting these demonstrations. And obviously, from the response that we heard from Tahrir Square, and the fact that just now, the protesters have set up a human chain around state TV, nobody is buying it.
Clearly, the anger is profound, it's deep, and it's widespread. And how the Egyptian government is going to deal with this, it's hard to say.
It may indeed be part of their plan, which is to provoke a strong, excessive reaction from the protesters, and therefore justifying a harsh crackdown. It certainly is not what the people in Tahrir Square were hoping to hear. And of course tomorrow being Friday, a day off, we can expect some massive demonstrations in Cairo, bigger than anything we have seen so far -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Do you get a sense, Ben, where the Egyptian military has -- can we conclude that the Egyptian military now has come down on the side of Mubarak and Suleiman.
WEDEMAN: I think I lost him.
BLITZER: All right. I think we've lost Ben Wedeman, but we'll reconnect with him.
Candy Crowley is here. She's been watching it.
I can only imagine what's going on in the Situation Room over at the Whtie House. If the president is meeting there with his top national security advisers, they must be deeply disappointed and very worried given the U.S., the regional stability issues, the strategic, the military issues in that part of the world.
CANDY CROWLEY, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: That, and given -- a couple of things in two e-mails. One from someone who has been in touch with the administration giving some informal advice, who said the question here is, if you look back to where did it begin that we thought Mubarak was going to resign? It began with senior military officials. It was a defense guy that went into the square --
BLITZER: The army chief.
CROWLEY: Right, the army chief.
BLITZER: He went into Tahrir Square and he said to the protesters this morning, "All your demands will be fully met."
CROWLEY: Demands will be met. So when this source wrote me, he said, "The question is, were we misled or were they misled?"
You know, did they have reason to believe that Mubarak was going? Or were they misleading the world into what Mubarak was doing? And I think the other question is, clearly, they do worry about the violence and whether this will erupt into violence and if they're going to march on various places. And I was interested in listening to Fareed about is he -- was Mubarak trying to provoked these protesters into something violent so that he could justify a crackdown? And that is also a concern that they have.
BLITZER: All right, Candy. Hold on a for a moment, because we have a lot more to digest.
As we just saw, some of the crowd, some of the protesters, they are beginning to walk. Some may be walking towards the state television station, others may be walking towards the presidential palace. It's now approaching midnight in Cairo right now.
Let's take 60 seconds, a 60-second break. Our special breaking news coverage will continue right after this.
BLITZER: All right. The Egyptian president, Hosni Mubarak, he wrapped up his speech. The vice president, Omar Suleiman, he wrapped up his speech. Both speaking on Egyptian state television, both making it very, very clear that Mubarak is not stepping down. He's staying on as president of Egypt.
Hala Gorani has been watching all of this, together with us, our viewers here in the United States and around the world.
I think it's fair to say, Hala, that these next hours will be critical as far as violence potentially getting out of control once again. We saw it last week when you were there. We assumed those days were over, but not necessarily.
GORANI: Not necessarily. It's impossible to predict what happens in Egypt.
And one thing struck me, Wolf, in Vice President Suleiman's speech regarding the possibility of violence is when he blamed once again the satellite news channels, saying that they're the ones responsible for giving a bad image of Egypt to the world. And you'll remember, Wolf, that the last time that was said in an interview conducted on Egyptian television, the next day journalists became targets of pro-Mubarak demonstrators. So it is something we have to look out for.
And another thing is regarding the section of these pro-democracy demonstrators who peeled away from Tahrir Square and are marching toward the TV building. We've walked past that TV building many times, I did just a few days ago. It's completely protected by army tanks, by armored personnel carriers, and by the presidential guard.
So it's going to be interesting to see if indeed these demonstrators, these hundreds of demonstrators who vowed to march toward the TV building, this symbol of the Mubarak regime and its messages it's sent throughout the decades, what will then happen -- Wolf.
BLITZER: And these protesters in Tahrir Square, they're screaming out in Arabic, "We're not leaving, he's leaving, referring to Hosni Mubarak. Well, Hosni Mubarak made it clear he's not leaving yet, may not leave without a fight. He says he's delegating some authority to Omar Suleiman, the vice president, but he's staying put.
Anderson Cooper has been watching all of this as well. I think it's fair to say, Anderson, that -- you tell me if you think it's fair to say this, that the Egyptian military must have been on board with what Suleiman and Mubarak are saying given the clout, the influence, the importance of the Egyptian military. I can only assume that, but maybe I'm wrong.
Unfortunately, Anderson isn't hearing me.
But Hala -- let me let Hala weigh in on that point.
The Egyptian military, we assumed, at least earlier in the day, they were now reconciled with the fact that Mubarak must go, but maybe that's wrong.
GORANI: It's hard to imagine a scenario in Egypt right now, Wolf, where the military has not given its approval to whatever was announced by President Mubarak and Vice President Suleiman. It seems as if though they are now betting on a scenario in which President Mubarak stays in power until September, hoping -- somehow hoping that these protests will run out of steam.
It's also difficult to understand that bet. If you've walked among the crowds in Tahrir Square, Wolf, these protesters are determined, and it's a cross-section of the Egyptian population.
The idea that it's led by the Muslim Brotherhood, or led by sort of lower-income Egyptians out of work, or that it's led by the upper middle class, all that is wrong. It's a mosaic of Egyptian society.
And they, in their hundreds, have come up to us, CNN reporters over the last few weeks, Wolf, vowing to stay in Tahrir Square fighting for what they believe should be the future of their country. And that is a regime that is not led by President Mubarak or his close associates.
But the role of the military is clear in this situation. It is very difficult to imagine a scenario in which the military did not give its seal of approval to the plan that was announced today.
BLITZER: Hold on for a second, Hala. Candy Crowley is here.
You know, when the CIA director, Leon Panetta, tells Congress in testimony earlier today, Q&A with members of Congress, that he's led to believe Mubarak will step down probably as early as tonight, will make the announcement, someone got it wrong.
CROWLEY: Someone got it wrong. And I think one of the things that that points out is something that we've been talking about for the past couple of weeks.
Regardless of how you think the Obama administration has handled this, the ability of this administration at this point, and particularly today, to try to move President Mubarak one way or the other, or the Egyptian military one way or the other, seems done. One of the other messages that I got was, listen, you know, yes, we can take this talk about the satellite channels and blaming foreign intervention, but there was a point during his speech when President Mubarak said, "I never succumb to international pressure. I have always protected Egypt."
A lot of people think that was directed at the U.S., and that the U.S. has no sway at this point.
BLITZER: Candy Crowley, thanks very much.