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Uprising in Egypt; Gauging the Impact in the Middle East; The Call From Washington
Aired February 11, 2011 - 08:00:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
KRISTIE LU STOUT, ANCHOR: Welcome to NEWS STREAM and our continuing coverage of the uprising in Egypt.
I'm Kristie Lu Stout, in Hong Kong.
Defiance in Egypt. Thousands of protesters are standing firm, refusing to budge unless President Mubarak quits.
Now, Egypt's armed forces pledge free and fair elections, but do not call for the president to step aside.
And a crowd turns on a CNN crew after a malicious rumor is deliberately spread. Now, this is a report you won't want to miss.
Egypt's military has spoken, but the message looks like another disappointment for anti-government protesters. Now, shortly before noon prayers, the army released a statement saying the military will guarantee constitutional reforms and ensure free elections, but it did not call on President Hosni Mubarak to resign and said emergency rule would end only after the crisis is over.
Now, protesters believed Mr. Mubarak was set to step down on Thursday. Instead, he handed over some power to the vice president in a speech that sparked fury and frustration.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HOSNI MUBARAK, EGYPTIAN PRESIDENT (through translator): Egypt is witnessing a critical juncture in its life that would impose at the moment that we put Egypt now as a top priority and leave aside any sort of personal interest. So Egypt is a top priority now. So I sought that I would delegate powers to the vice president according to the constitution.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STOUT: And we just want to report developments as they come in. Many times we're not able to confirm reports ourselves, but there are now many different reports in Arab and Israeli media that say that the Egyptian president, Hosni Mubarak, has left Cairo. Now, some reports have him going to his retreat Sharm el-Sheikh.
Now, just a caution. We have seen these types of stories several times in the last few days. And even if true, we would not want to speculate on what his leaving the capital would mean.
Again, CNN, we have not confirmed these reports. But we do want to keep you updated on any developments that could be significant.
Now, some protesters have described the speech that Hosni Mubarak gave yesterday as patronizing. Others oppose (ph) a smoke screen. And right now, defiant demonstrators are masked in Tahrir Square.
Our Senior International Correspondent Ben Wedeman joins us live from Cairo.
And Ben, we've been looking at some incredible images of a jam-packed Tahrir Square. Is the crowd there just getting bigger?
BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SR. INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. The crowd is so big, in fact, Kristie, that they've overflowed to where I am, which is right on the Corniche, the road by the Nile.
I estimate there are about 15,000 people here on this road, jam-packed, in front of the Ministry of Information and state TV. And the crowd gets bigger and bigger. People are coming over the October 6th Bridge from the western side of the city. Obviously, they are coming to protest in front of what they consider to be one of the main symbols of the Mubarak regime and its propaganda machine, state TV.
In addition to that, of course, we're hearing that there are the smaller demonstrations gathering near one of the presidential palaces. So I think here you see very much people voting with their feet in reaction to the speech by President Mubarak last night that seems to have pleased very few of these protesters -- Kristie.
STOUT: Ben, how far is the Egyptian military willing to go to defend the symbols of Mubarak's power, the presidential palace, the state TV station?
WEDEMAN: Well, that's very difficult to say at this point, but I know from sources that they are extremely hesitant to get into a position where they have to use force, gunfire, perhaps, to repel demonstrators in the event they try to get any closer to state buildings and ministries and, of course, the presidential palace. What we see here, of course, is that there are tanks, there's barbed wired armored personnel carriers and soldiers blocking the protesters from getting any closer.
And what we've heard throughout these demonstrations is this same chant, "Samiya (ph)! Samiya (ph)!" It means "Peaceful! Peaceful!" So they've tried to maintain peaceful demonstrations to avoid any sort of confrontation with the military. And the military obviously wants the same -- Kristie.
STOUT: Have you talked to some of the protesters there behind you about what they hope to achieve today?
WEDEMAN: Well, I think their demands really come down to one thing and one thing only, which is they want President Mubarak to stand down permanently and unequivocally from his position as president of the republic. I think his speech last night was so nuanced, so vague about sort of "powers" being handed over to the vice president, but his demeanor, the way he delivered his speech, was very much, I am still president of the republic, even though I'm giving some powers to the vice president.
People want him to step down. There's really no going around it -- Kristie.
STOUT: And yet, Hosni Mubarak still refuses to step down. He is still clinging to power. Why? Does he have the full backing of the military? What is your analysis?
WEDEMAN: Well, he does have sort of the tentative backing of the military, but we've already seen there's a lot of confusion. The military -- the Higher Military Council put out a statement it calls "Communique Number One." It didn't mention the president. It mentioned that it would be studying the situation closely through protection of higher interests of the state and the people of Egypt.
So it's not at all clear how far the military is willing to go at this point to shore up a president who is clearly, as we can see from the streets of Cairo and other existent (ph) cities, he's clearly not wanted at the moment -- Kristie.
STOUT: All right, Ben. Thank you.
Ben Wedeman joining us live in Cairo.
Now, Ben and our team of correspondents there, they've been tweeting events as they occur. We're also keeping tabs of some top figures in Egypt.
Now, the leading opposition figure, Mohamed ElBaradei, he recently tweeted this -- he said, "The entire nation is on the streets. Only way out is for regime to go. People power can't be crushed. We shall prevail. Still hope the army can join."
The protest leader Wael Ghonim has again demanded immediate change. Just a short time ago he wrote this: "Dear President Mubarak: Your dignity is no longer important, the blood of Egyptians is. Please leave the country NOW."
And the popular blogger and activist known as "Sandmonkey," he had this take on the army's statement. Now, he writes this: "The emergency law isn't lifted. It will be lifted once 'calm is restored,' which could mean after all of us are arrested."
Now, it is unclear how many people have been killed in Egypt's fight for democracy. Human Rights Watch says the number is about 300. Some estimates put the figure at two or even three times that. But one Web site paints a much more vivid picture than a single number.
Now, take a look at this. It's a Web site called "Faces of the Fallen." It has received hundreds of thousands of hits. It's been shared on Facebook and Twitter tens of thousands of times. And these are all people who have died since the uprising began some 18 days ago.
And I want to show you this. It's a photograph, a photograph of an 8-year- old boy allegedly shot and killed by security forces. And he is of course unfortunately just one of many to have lost their lives.
There is no denying that Egypt is a volatile place at this moment. Yesterday, we saw excited anticipation turn to anger within moments. The situations could change in a matter of seconds, as Arwa Damon found out.
ARWA DAMON, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Dr. Mohamed Bashandi (ph) points toward the police station at the center of the small town of Kirdasa.
(on camera): So here we have the police station, and the mosque is right there. And this entire area is where the demonstrations and then the clashes were all centralized.
(voice-over): On the Internet, there is amateur video of how residents drove the police out on January 28th following fierce clashes where we are told five demonstrators were killed.
This town has a long and turbulent history with the Mubarak regime. "There is a lot of support for the Muslim Brotherhood here," Dr. Bashandi (ph) explains. The Muslim Brotherhood, an Islamist movement and the largest and best organized opposition group here in Egypt.
The crowd around us in Kirdasa is small and at this point friendly, as anti-Mubarak people tend to be towards the press, until this man in beige appears. You can see the doctor places his hand on his shoulder. The man, we are told later, is a member of Mubarak's National Democratic Party. Sensing the need to appease him, the doctor tells the man, "I didn't say a single wrong word to them."
As we walk towards the police station, you can hear voices off camera shouting at others not to bother us. The man in beige follows us, but we don't think twice about it.
Suddenly, these two women appear, aggressively demanding to know what we are filming. Instantly, the group turns on us. We are warned to leave.
The crowd converges on our vehicle, banging on the truck, and smashes in a taillight. We are stunned at the turn of events.
This man, Dr. Sayyed Hussein, catches up on the side of the road. "The man in beige," he says "is a spy for the regime, and he deliberately stirred up the crowd with an outrageous lie."
DR. SAYYED HUSSEIN, RESIDENT: That's why he spreads (ph) the rumors in the countryside that you are American and you came here to invade our country, and you came (INAUDIBLE), and you came as enemies.
DAMON: Shocking, but a perfect provocative way to drive us out.
State TV has been inundating its viewers with what they call the influence of outside forces in the crisis. Repeated statements by the government accuse foreign elements of interfering and hosting unfriendly satellite channels that incite the youth.
Also available on YouTube, video from a local TV channel where this woman claims that she's an anti-government activist who was trained by the Jews in America. For the many uneducated Egyptians, this is the only access to information that they have.
HUSSEIN: I even met with a lady -- a lady. She doesn't know anything. She said to me, "Sayyed, who are these people? Because the Americans, they come to invade, and they said they will invade our bedrooms."
DAMON: If true, just another dirty tactic by those desperate to cling to power.
Arwa Damon, CNN, Kirdasa, Egypt.
STOUT: Now, we've already seen the effect that events in Egypt are having throughout the Arab world, particularly in Jordan and Yemen. But a successful revolution could have much broader implications.
Rima Maktabi has been gauging the mood in other Middle Eastern countries, and she joins us now live from Beirut.
And Rima, how is this story unfolding across the Middle east?
RIMA MAKTABI, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, wherever you go people are mesmerized in front of the TV stations, watching what's happening in Egypt, watching these demonstrators. And they have opinions.
Some of them like it, they want to see Mubarak leaving. Others do not like it. They're worried about the future of Egypt.
Now, Mubarak seems to have a lot of enemies among those demonstrators in Egypt. However, he still has friends. Arab governments and leaders do not want to see Mubarak leaving the same way the Tunisian president left. They are convinced that Mubarak has stayed for too long.
He took steps in a later stage. He should have acted earlier. But if he leaves or steps down the same way the Tunisian president has, their regimes and their leaderships may be jeopardized.
Foreign minister Saud al-Faisal yesterday said that interference by some countries in Egypt's affairs is -- he condemns that. And earlier, the foreign minister of the UAE was among the first to visit Mubarak and see him in Cairo.
STOUT: Now, Rima, this Monday is February the 14th, which is the anniversary of the death of the former Lebanese prime minister Rafik Hariri. What lessons from the cedar revolution there in Lebanon can be appalled to the revolution under way in Egypt?
MAKTABI: I met many young people here in Lebanon in the past few days. They were the ones who organized those demonstrations and stayed in downtown Beirut for more than 60 days. They watched what's happening in Egypt, Jordan, to some extent, Yemen, and Tunisia with nostalgia.
They feel they have accomplished a lot by forcing the Syrian forces out of Lebanon after so many years, but they also feel that what's happened in Lebanon in the past week disappoints them to some extent, because Hezbollah took over, politically, the power in Lebanon by ousting the prime minister, Saad Hariri, in the past days.
Now, as you know, Lebanon historically has been the battleground for many regional forces. And fears here is that this country will be another battleground with all that's happening in the Middle East -- Kristie.
STOUT: Rima, I also wanted to ask you about Wael Ghonim, the cyber- activist who has emerged as a leader for the protesters in Egypt. How do Arabs, and particularly young Arabs, view him and his willingness to die for his cause?
MAKTABI: He's an inspiration to a lot of this Arab youth. The majority of the population in Arab countries, they are young, and they do not have a lot of means to express themselves. And I'm talking about countries, Gulf countries, where access to Internet and Facebook and Twitter is not very easy, even in Syria and other parts of the Arab world.
All that's happening in Egypt is an inspiration for the Arab youth who need more, want more. They want to see themselves participating in the decision-making in those countries. They want a bigger role, and they want to fight corruption, and they want to see more jobs, more opportunities to live comfortably and freely.
STOUT: All right, Rima. Thank you for that.
Rima Maktabi, joining us live from Beirut.
Now, coming up next here on NEWS STREAM, we'll have all the latest from Cairo, as well as the U.S. president's reaction to Mr. Mubarak's reluctance to resign.
STOUT: Welcome back.
Now, the U.S. president, Barack Obama, had some carefully-crafted words for his Egyptian counterpart, Hosni Mubarak. Now, he reiterated calls for a credible, concrete and unequivocal path toward genuine democracy.
Kate Bolduan is at the White House. She joins us now.
And Kate, walk us through exactly how Barack Obama responded to Mubarak's speech and his refusal to step down.
KATE BOLDUAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Kristie, it was really interesting yesterday. The president was actually traveling to Michigan to give a completely unrelated speech, and when he was there he took a few minutes off the top to talk about the unrest in Egypt, and he really, in his words, gave the sense that they were hopeful that change was really imminent.
He said that we're watching history unfold. He called it a "moment of transformation."
But then, by the evening, Kristie, a marked change in tone from the president, and an unusually lengthy statement that he put out. This following a long meeting with his National Security Council team.
Part of the statement -- I'll just read part of it, because it was lengthy.
The president said, "Too many Egyptians remain unconvinced that the government is serious about a genuine transition to democracy, and it is the responsibility of the government to speak clearly to the Egyptian people and the world."
That part, "speak clearly," that was repeated in many different manifestations throughout the president's statement, Kristie. It really seemed that this White House was -- that the statement by President Mubarak, that his words was not well received by this White House. Specifically, that it was very ambiguous, very unclear as to what path President Mubarak was putting in place.
President Obama even saying that it is "now time to spell out in clear, unambiguous language what you're doing." And that's not just really for the Egyptian people, but for the world. And I think that's really what President Obama did in his statement last night, Kristie, kind of throwing it right back at President Mubarak, saying it's your time to clarify here and tell us what you're going to do, and really what you meant -- Kristie.
STOUT: Yes. You could hear quite clearly Obama's turn. It's getting tougher, it's getting more direct.
STOUT: So is it your sense that the Obama administration is losing patience with Mr. Mubarak?
BOLDUAN: We're not getting -- no one is coming out to say the words "frustration" or "losing patience." But I think you can really read it pretty clearly in that statement from last night.
It was a carefully-crafted statement. They always are when they come out from the president.
You would not be surprised of course they're frustrated with how things turned out yesterday. All reports were pointing to the fact that President Mubarak was going to make a statement that he was going to be stepping down. That clearly didn't happen, and they kind of seemed to shuffle the deck on what really is the state of play.
So you can see there probably is a sense of frustration. It's going to be really important, and we're closely watching what, if anything, the president or his staff or his press secretary will say today. The president's schedule is really wide open at this point.
And the question is, where does this White House go next? Does the president continue along this kind of cautious path of calling for President Mubarak to put in an orderly transition of power to democracy, or is this time for this administration to make it clear right from President Mubarak and call, for the first time, for him to step down?
We have no indication either way, but you get -- I get the sense that we're all going to be watching closely to see where it goes from here, because it seems that the tone here in Washington is changing.
STOUT: All right, Kate. Thank you for that.
Kate Bolduan, joining us live from the White House.
And let's bring up some live pictures for you from Tahrir Square, the Egyptian capital. Thousands upon thousands of Egyptian anti-government protesters have descended on the square. Tension is mounting there, as well as across the country, especially on the back of that address yesterday from the Egyptian president in which he refused to back down.
This Friday in Egypt, a day of rest, a day of prayer. It's a day of massive protests not only happening here, in Tahrir Square, but also elsewhere across the country and elsewhere in Cairo, where we've been seeing protesters gathering outside the headquarters of the state television station, as well as outside the presidential palace.
Live pictures there from Tahrir.
We will have the latest developments from Egypt as they unfold.
Coming up, we'll also back at the root of this uprising and why these protesters wanted Hosni Mubarak to leave in the first place.
STOUT: Coming to you live from Hong Kong, you're back watching NEWS STREAM.
We are keeping a close eye on demonstrations in Cairo this hour as tens of thousands of protesters gather on the streets. You're looking at live pictures of Tahrir Square, there in the Egyptian capital, and they continue to demand that the Egyptian president, Hosni Mubarak, step down.
But why is Mr. Mubarak still unpopular?
Our Andrew Stevens has been taking a look at the role the economy has played in the uprising -- Andrew.
ANDREW STEVENS, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Kristie.
The state of Egypt's economy is a key to understanding at least some of the animosity towards the president. Poverty, high unemployment and rising prices all factor in to the frustration.
Now, Egyptians, particularly the young and educated, are fed up with high levels of joblessness. The CIA World Factbook estimates the unemployment hit 9.7 percent in 2010. And though firm statistics are pretty hard to pin down, the rate among young people is reportedly much higher, near 25 percent.
And while jobs are scarce, prices continue to rise. Core inflation up to 9.74 percent in January. That's the highest rate in three months. And if that sounds high, food prices are rising even faster. And your (ph) food inflation rose by almost 19 percent, compared to 17.2 percent the previous year.
Now, making matters worse is the perceived wealth and influence of Hosni Mubarak. Figures on the president's total worth vary wildly. One American Middle East analyst says that an investment in Egypt has been an investment in -- what he describes as the "Bank of Mubarak."
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MICHAEL RUBIN, MIDDLE EAST ANALYST, AMERICAN ENTERPRISE INSTITUTE: In Egypt, there's no difference between politics and personal business. This is ultimately the problem. There could be no business in Egypt without Hosni Mubarak inserting himself in as a silent partner. All the investment that anyone sees, all the luxury hotels that you see in Cairo, all the factories, industry and so forth, ultimately some of those proceeds were going to Mubarak's bank account.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STEVENS: Now, one recent publication estimated Mubarak's wealth could be as high as $70 billion.
Well, meanwhile, Egypt's stock exchange remains closed. Trading stopped two weeks ago after the markets slumped 10 percent in a single day. Now concerns that it could sink even more when it reopens have prompted a new Facebook campaign.
Call it people power in the markets, if you like. Groups are now calling for ordinary Egyptians to invest 100 Egyptian pounds -- that's about $16 -- to prop up the market when it reopens.
This is just one of them. The campaign certainly drawing lots of comments, and most of the people who have posted here seem pretty receptive to that idea.
Exchange officials, meanwhile, say that they'll decide on Saturday whether to resume trading on Sunday, as currently planned -- Kristie.
STOUT: Wow. Facebook is really driving this revolution in many ways.
Andrew Stevens there.
Now, let's bring up some live pictures for you once again. Let's take you live to the Egyptian capital, Cairo. And there you see Tahrir Square.
Scores of protesters jam-packed in the square. And also, hordes of protesters gathering at other very key locations that are symbolic of the Mubarak regime. The presidential palace, they're gathered outside there, as well as the state television station.
Now, all of this happening amid reports, unconfirmed by CNN, but reports that Israeli and Arab media saying that the Egyptian president has left Cairo and is in Sharm el-Sheikh. Again, those reports unconfirmed, but what you see here happening live on our screens, a massive display of people power and anger against the Egyptian president.
You're watching News stream. And still ahead on the program, we will have the latest on these protests in Tahrir Square. And we'll give you the reaction from the Facebook as come to be known as the online Tahrir Square.
STOUT: I'm Kristie Lu Stout in Hong Kong, you're watching News Stream and these are your world headlines.
Now the Colombian rebel group FARC is expected to release two more hostages today: a politician and a marine, the two other captives said to be freed over the weekend. FARC rebels already released one captive on Wednesday. But Colombia's president accuses the rebels of playing games after two workers were apparently kidnapped on the same day.
A Pakistani court has ordered an American diplomat to remain in custody for another 14 days. Raymond Davis is accused of shooting and killing two men. Davis says he acted in self-defense, a claim rejected by Lahore's police chief who calls it murder. The U.S. State Department is demanding Davis to be freed saying he has diplomatic immunity.
Iran's president is stirring up controversy. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said a new Middle East is being created that will be free of the U.S. and Israel, countries that Iran sees as its enemies. Now the president made the remarks to crowds celebrating the 32nd anniversary of the Islamic revolution when Iranians forced out the U.S.-backed Shah. Well, hundreds of thousands of people marched to Tehran's Azadi Square waving flags and banners.
And the crowd in Cairo's Tahrir Square just keeps growing and growing. It is so packed that people have spilled into surrounding streets. Anti-government protesters are reacting last night's speech by President Hosni Mubarak who is still holding on to his office. Now the army has also made a statement saying it will guarantee constitutional reforms and insure free elections, but it did not call on Mr. Mubarak to resign.
Now let's check on the mood in Tahrir Square right now. Frederik Pleitgen is watching the crowd swell in Cairo. And Fred, describe the atmosphere for us.
FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, describe it for you Kristie and I'll show it to you. And in fact, not just Tahrir Square, but the surrounding areas as well, because one of the interesting things that has happened is that the protesters are spilling over from Tahrir Square and they pretty much have taken over the entire part -- or this entire part of downtown Cairo. And what they are doing is -- you can see a lot of people here on the streets in front of me, what they are doing is they sort of shuttling back and forth between that major demonstration on Tahrir Square and the Information Ministry which is just a couple of blocks down from Tahrir Square and from where we are as well, where a second major demonstration is going on. Of course, the Information Ministry, one of the most hated institutions here in this country.
It is a massive crowd. It's pretty much shutting down traffic in this part of Cairo as well as people are parking their cars on one of the major thoroughfares across the Nile. A major demonstration -- of course, people are very, very angry at the speech that Hosni Mubarak gave yesterday. A lot of people told me yesterday they found the speech absolutely patronizing. They feel that Hosni Mubarak is out of touch with what they want and what they need. And one person told me he feels that the president of this country is treating the people of this country as if they were children. And of course we heard the comments from Omar Suleiman in his speech, the vice president yesterday saying that the youth of this country, that they should return to work. It's not only young people who are out here. There are a lot of young people, but there's also a lot of families, again a lot of families with children who are coming out here and protesting. And what is from what I can see the largest showing since the beginning of these demonstrations, Kristie.
STOUT: And Fred, can you describe to us and perhaps even show to us with the camera that you have there the security presence in Tahrir Square? And also while you're at it, the security presence at other protest sites, including the presidential palace?
PLEITGEN: Yeah, the security presence still -- you can still see a lot of tanks on the street. There's one on the ramps up to this sort of thoroughfare that goes across the Nile. There's a big tank there. Also a lot of tanks in front of the Information Ministry where that other protest is going on. Those have been there for awhile.
The army here is very much stationary. They are here -- they have the situation under control from a safety and security standpoint. They are here to show their presence to ensure that things don't get out of hand. The situation could be a little bit different at the presidential palace where we're hearing that hundreds of protesters are there as well. There's a lot of military presence there. Of course, those are the most loyal troops to Hosni Mubarak. And so there the situation could get a little bit dicey. We haven't heard that it has, though, yet. In all the places we hear that the military is stationary, they are overlooking the crowd.
The crowds are actually also listening to the military. They are obeying the orders, because the way that the military and the crowds have been dealing with each other has been a very cheerful, a very friendly manner. So it seems as thought right now from a safety and security standpoint this demonstration is absolutely under control, Kristie.
STOUT: It's interesting for you -- just to hear you describe that dynamic between the military and the protesters. Is it your sense that today's protests and that the revolution will stay peaceful?
PLEITGEN: I think it will. You know one of the interesting things that I heard yesterday, and I was on the square, I was talking to people right after Hosni Mubarak finished his speech, people were very, very angry. People came up to me, they started screaming. They said that he was out of touch with reality. They didn't know what sort of world Hosni Mubarak lived in. But one thing that a couple of demonstrators said was I think very telling, they said yes we have to show our anger, but we have to do it peacefully. A lot of the people who are here believe that Hosni Mubarak made that speech to try and incite violence, because that would give him the reason to do a crackdown.
Now of course there's no way to verify that, but by and large most protesters that we've been speaking to say they believe that they can better drive home their point if they are angry but peaceful. Anything that leads to rioting will diminish from the force of the statement that these protesters are trying to make, Kristie.
STOUT: OK, Fred Pleitgen joining us live from Cairo. Thank you for that, Fred.
We want to show you some of the key locations in today's protests. Anti-government demonstrators, they are packing into Tahrir Square. It has been the epicenter of the protest movement since January 25. And just a short distance away, hundreds of protesters have gathered around the headquarters of Egyptian State TV. Now they see the station as an instrument of government propaganda and some have talked about taking over the building. Now that has not happened, but we have heard some employees have been unable to enter. Now another crowd is camped in front of the parliament building. And on Wednesday there sit-in at the gate forced government officials to relocate.
Now it remains to be seen whether or not protesters will march to the presidential palace today. They have made that same call on previous occasions, but have yet to make the move. You can see the reason right here, it's the distance. There are also many barricades along the way, including military tanks and barbed wire.
And reports on the ground say that the only road open leads to the airport.
Now this was an uprising advanced by social media and social media has been buzzing in the wake of Thursday night's events. It seems the CIA wasn't the only apparently puzzled by the way the night progressed. Now a leading protest figure Wael Ghonim, he tweeted early in the evening. He wrote, "mission accomplished. Thanks to all the brave, young Egyptians." Following with the hashtag Jan25.
But within minutes he changed his tune, saying this, "guys, don't do much speculations for now, just wait and see."
Now protesters did that. When they heard what President Mubarak had to say, the Facebook page founded by Wael Ghonim, it just exploded. Most, they reacted with anger. Kaid Al, he wrote this, "tomorrow, Friday the people will go to the presidential palace to occupy it and we will be done with the tyrant."
But not all anger was directed at Hosni Mubarak. Now Sumar Galal wrote this, "if Wael calls for demonstrations again, then he is seriously a traitor, and agent."
Now a leading figure of the Egyptian opposition makes an appeal to the United States on the pages of the New York Times. In an open letter, Mohammed ElBaradei called on the U.S. to support regime change in Egypt. He even used U.S. president Barack Obama's popular election theme, "yes we can" in his editorial.
And then, just about an hour ago on Twitter, ElBaradei tweeted this. He said "the entire nation is on the streets, only way out is for the regime to go. People power can't be crushed, we shall prevail. Sill hope army can join."
Now earlier ElBaradei, he talked with CNN, calling the latest arrangement from Mr. Mubarak just a charade.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MOHAMMED ELBARADEI, OPPOSITION LEADER: This is an act of deception at the grand scale. People are stunned here. Everybody expected Mubarak and his regime -- they lack all credibility, all legitimacy, to step aside. People were expecting that we would then move into a transitional period where you will have a government of national unity, a government to carry on for a year to prepare for transparent elections. And there is no way the Egyptian people right now were ready to accept either Mubarak or his vice president.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STOUT: Now, just ahead here on News Stream, we'll be catching up once more with our Ben Wedeman as he follows Cairo's protesters and as the crowds spill out from a swollen Tahrir Square.
STOUT: Welcome back.
Now we are still watching the massive protest in Egypt's capital. Now take a look at Tahrir Square. Let's bring up the live pictures for you. Now people are jam packed in there. And they are chanting, they are chanting peaceful, peaceful. But there is no doubt that anti-government protesters, they are angry and they are frustrated.
Now they thought that President Hosni Mubarak was set to resign on Thursday, instead he announced a delegation of powers to his vice president. Mr. Mubarak remains in office. And the army has voiced support for his transition plan.
Now let's bring you the very latest. Friday prayers ended just a few hours ago in Egypt. Now this is a time that many Egypt watchers have looked to Tahrir Square seen here as a gauge of the mood of the Egyptian people. Over the last few weeks, the end of Friday prayers have meant anger. What we're seeing now, though, is one of the largest gatherings of Egyptians since these protests began 18 days ago. But for the most part, they seem peaceful. There have been no clashes of forces opposed to it in favor of the government, there's been no gunfire. But the gathering has spilled out beyond the square and there are reports of some groups headed toward the presidential palace.
Now this is now day 18 of the demonstrations. It is about the be the biggest protest yet. Let's check in again with our senior international correspondent Ben Wedemen. And Ben, are more people filling into the square?
WEDEMAN: There are people spilling into the square, but there's people actually spilling out of the square, Kristie. What you see here is this is the Corniche, the main road by the Nile where thousands of people are gathering in front of the Ministry of Information and the headquarters of state television.
And just to get back to your point about peaceful protests, Christian Stribe (ph), one of our cameraman, was down in the crowd. He said that the barbed-wire fence was actually pushed down by the sheer mass of the protesters and interestingly enough, they actually put the fence back up and started to chant "saleem, saleem (ph)" which in Arabic means peaceful, peaceful. So it does appear that even though there are bigger number than we've seen yet so far, the protesters seem determined to maintain that peaceful atmosphere of the protests -- Kristie.
STOUT: But who are some of the demonstrators in the square? And are some of the workers who have been on strike, have they joined this protest?
WEDEMAN: Well, actually, if we zoom in on this red sign behind this tank, this says that it's the teaching staff of the University of Cairo who are represented down there among the crowd in addition to factory workers from Helwan, which is an industrial city just south of Cairo. So we do see that the numbers have been significantly swelled by many of these striking workers, because there have been strikes over the last three days throughout the country, workers demanding higher wages, better conditions and also the ouster of the Mubarak regime -- Kristie.
STOUT: Now Ben, today is Friday. It has been a day of prayer. Were you able to listen in earlier, what's the protesters were praying for?
WEDEMAN: Well, really, the protesters continue to focus on one goal alone, and that is the complete dismissal, resignation, whatever you want to call it, of President Mubarak. People clearly not happy with his speech last night, which they say had a very paternalistic tone, was very much in the first person President Mubarak speaking as the head of state. It simply sent all the wrong messages to the people even though it would appear technically he's handed over many of his powers to the vice president, but that doesn't appear to be enough -- Kristie.
STOUT: And Ben, while we still have you, I wanted to ask you for your analysis to this tweet that Mohammed ElBaradei sent out about an hour ago. The opposition leader he wrote this. He said, "entire nation is on the streets. Only way out is for regime to go. People power can't be crushed. We shall prevail. Still hope army can join." Ben, does the army have the leverage to force Mr. Mubarak from office? And where does it stand now?
WEDEMAN: Well, what is clear is that the army is very hesitant to take a stand here. They're sort of on a fence between their loyalty to the president and the obvious opinion -- sentiment on the street that wants the president to go. We've gotten so many contradictory messages coming out of the army, which over the last 24 hours has issued two communiques. We're expecting a third. The first one did not even mention the president by name or by office. And then in fact earlier they did have -- state television did run pictures from a meeting of the so-called higher council of the Egyptian Army, higher military council, and oddly enough in the room there was no picture of President Mubarak. And that's something that in almost every government office you see a picture of the president. So very strange, very confusing messages being put out by the military at this point -- Kristie.
STOUT: All right. Ben Wedeman joining us live from Tahrir Square. Thank you, Ben.
Now just 10 kilometers away near the presidential palace is our Ivan Watson. He joins us now live on the phone. And Ivan, there are reports of protesters approaching the palace. What are you seeing?
IVAN WATSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORREPSONDENT: Well, I think protesters are already here, Kristie. There's several thousand people that have gathered here just a couple dozen yards away from the walls, the ornate walls of the sprawling white palace. They gathered here. They're chanting and clapping and waving flags and their protest signs. In front is a wall of barbed wire that has been erected by the Egyptian military, which are standing here, they are posted about four tanks here blocking the road and the commuter train tracks here in front of the palace. And people are peaceful and they're chanting -- maybe I can -- excuse me, sir. Maybe I can let you hear a little bit of what the crowd is chanting.
(inaudible) things. Here we go.
And there's some young men standing next to the barbed wire. They're holding up a shoe with a picture of Mubarak's face in it. And one of the fascinating things, Kristie, about the drive up here was that the city is empty outside of the downtown area around Tahrir Square it is a ghost town. The streets, the boulevards hardly any traffic at all as either people are gathering at protest sites, or they are clearly staying home because they're too nervous to go out on the streets.
STOUT: So thousands of protesters are there at the presidential palace where you are. The protest remains peaceful. What do we know about the whereabouts of the Egyptian president at this point?
WATSON: I think there's a lot of speculation right now and a lot of reports. We have to be very careful about indicating where he may or may not be. And we have to be very careful about this, because the rumor mill has been out of control throughout this crisis.
One of the interesting things is that the model of demonstrations of the uprising that we've seen in Tahrir Square is being duplicated here. There's a first aid center that's been set up. It look like people are already finding ways to distribute food -- you know, some food and some water here. I saw a truck loaded with blankets that was here. And some military were checking the identification papers of that driver. And we've seen that, especially in the last couple of days, blankets have become one of the weapons of the demonstrators here. They organize sit-ins and sleep- ins outside of new places where they are determined to show their defiance and their opposition to the government whether it's the parliament, of course Tahrir Square, or now perhaps right outside of the gates of the ultimate symbol of Mubarak's power in this country, this very ornate enormous white presidential palace.
STOUT: Ivan, do the protesters plan to stay put there at the presidential palace? Could the presidential palace emerge as a second epicenter of the uprising in Egypt along with Tahrir Square?
WATSON: I think it's a little bit too early to say, because we've already seen for several nights now, people camped out in front of the gates of the parliament. And one of the complaints, of course, that the demonstrators have is the last parliamentary elections in November and December were widely seemed to have been rigged and fraudulent in favor of Hosni Mubarak's ruling National Democratic Party. We see a large movement of people to the state television station right now. And this has been a new development really since last night.
It's interesting, the character of the (inaudible) here quite a bit different, much more upscale. This is the neighborhood of Heliopolis and a much more upscale part of the city. And many of the people here saying that they were very frustrated with Hosni Mubarak's speech last night, that they were very disappointed at what one man described as his arrogance. One man calling it -- saying that Hosni Mubarak has a PhD in stubbornness and now is not the time for that -- Kristie.
STOUT: Ivan, thank you for that. Ivan Watson joining us live on the phone from the presidential palace. And you heard it from Ivan just then, thousands of protesters have reached the presidential palace and they are demonstrating peacefully.
Now a massive crowd was jammed in Tahrir Square on Thursday night. You're looking at live pictures of what the square looks like right now. And they were anticipating President Mubarak's speech. But when he finally addressed his country yesterday, that message, it enraged the protesters. Our Arwa Damon was there.
ARWA DAMON, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Catchy tunes blare across Tahrir Square. From this angle, it looks more like a rock concert than a historic revolution the lyrics: a diatribe against the president and his regime. The mood is electric, people brimming with anticipation ahead of Mubarak's address. University student Noor Ayman belts out the familiar chant of "down, down with Hosni Mubarak!" smiling all the while, trying to mount his growing anxiety.
NOOR AYMAN NOUR, EGYPTIAN PROTESTERS: Initially started out with extreme happiness and extreme joy, it slowly turns into panic and worry. And then I just decided to cancel out all feelings, have zero expectations so that if it goes either way I just -- it's not too much, you know what I mean, to handle. That's all. That's all. But me and everyone else -- again everyone is optimistic, everyone is hoping that this is very different today.
DAMON: And hopes are high that tonight is finally the night that what started out as a Facebook and Twitter youth movement is going to bring about the unthinkable: the downfall of Mubarak.
What are all these tweets that you're just getting now?
NOUR: OK, so basically there's no hashtag that appeared a couple of hours ago which is reasonsMubarakislate. So now you have several hashtags -- the top tweet is Mubarak is downloading text, that's the reason he's late. He's dying his hair. It takes quite a time for pack $70 billion in suitcases.
DAMON: But after hours of waiting, as the president's voice echoes across the square, we watch the smiles disappear replaced by sheer horror. And for some, tears at Mubarak's words. And then, pure, raw, rage.
Whatever concessions, constitutional amendments or pledges, no one near enough.
NOUR: Friday, there will be bloodshed. The people won't stay quiet. The people will not accept this. And the military knows this. Mubarak knows this. And they know that the people who are going out to demonstrate tomorrow are enraged by this. And they know that they are going to extremes to prevent Mubarak from continuing. So tomorrow I'm sure peaceful protesters will be killed tomorrow because of the continuation of this atrocious regime.
DAMON: Noor, like so many others here can hardly put his emotions into words.
NOUR: Anger, disappointment and absolute disbelief.
DAMON: And you'll keep it up. You'll keep...
NOUR: Of course. Look at all these people. No one is going home. No one is going to go home. We're in this to the end, even if it means we're going to die, because people have died for this and we're all of us are prepared to die for this. We're in this to the end.
DAMON: Arwa Damon, CNN, Cairo.
STOUT: You have been watching News Stream. We will continue to cover the uprising in Egypt on this day, day 18 of massive anti-government protests that seem to be getting bigger and bigger. You're looking at live pictures of Cairo's Tahrir Square where thousands upon thousands of anti-government protesters are streaming into the square. And so huge are these crowds that they've been spilling into neighboring streets.
Now the protests are not only taking place in Cairo, but throughout the country including Egypt's second largest city of Alexandria.
In Cairo, as you've heard from Ivan Watson moments ago, thousands of protesters have reached the presidential palace. So far these protests that are taking place at the palace, at the state TV headquarters as well as Tahrir Square, as you can see on your screen, have remained peaceful. There have been no clashes between rival protest groups, there have been no use of force against the anti-government protesters.
Again, we're looking at live pictures of anti-government protests underway in Egypt. That's a live shot you're seeing there of Tahrir Square. And the protests continue to be peaceful this day, day 18 of anti- government protests in Egypt. Of course, they are all demanding an end to President Hosni Mubarak's 30 year rule.
Now President Hosni Mubarak, he refused to step down in an address yesterday which angered the protesters and fueled them, perhaps deflating hopes, but inflating anger prompting these protesters who turned out in force onto the streets of Cairo, various sites like Tahrir Square as you see there on your screen as well as the presidential palace where thousands of protesters are and in front of the propaganda machine of the government: the state TV headquarters.
We will continue to follow the situation here. Let's cross now to our sister network CNN USA for more.