Egypt: Mubarak's speech leads to confusion

February 10, 2011

CityRoom and AP Wires

(Chris Hondros/Getty Images)
Anti-government medical school students and professors march though a downtown street Thursday in Cairo, Egypt.

So what did Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak really say and really mean during his speech to the nation on Thursday?

That's a key question following an address carried live around much of the world.

In the immediate aftermath of his address, news organizations emphasized differing accounts of the speech and its implications.

The Associated Press led with the following line:  "Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak says he is transferring power to his vice president, Omar Suleiman." 

Headlines in the Chicago Sun Times echoed this approach:  "Mubarak says he'll transfer power to Vice President"

Meanwhile, CNN, the Chicago Tribune and USA Today were among those reporting that Mubarak defied the expectations of many by not stepping down. 

The Chicago Tribune had this headline:  "Mubarak fails to resign"

USA Today followed suit:  "Defiant Mubarak vows to stay in office until Sept elections"

In or Out?

The diverging interpretations reflect the unclear nature of Mubarak's remarks. 

In his address to the nation, Mubarak said he had delegated some of his powers to Vice President Omar Suleiman, but he also indicated he would remain in his position. 

"I cannot and will not accept to be dictated orders from outside no matter what the source is," said Mubarak speaking through a translator. 

What all of that means going forward wasn't entirely or immediately clear. 

NPR's All Things Considered characterized Mubarak's speech as "confusing and contradictory", at times.

Reporters weren't the only ones searching for deeper implications.

Earlier in the day, CIA Director Leon Panetta said U.S. intelligence indicated that Mubarak was on his way out.  Panetta told Congress that his information indicates Mubarak could be out by Thursday night. 

Panetta did not say exactly how the CIA reached that conclusion. He indicated Mubarak's exit would be "significant" in moving Egypt to an "orderly transition" of power.

Meantime, White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said developments remain fluid in Egypt and he stopped short of earlier confirming reports that President Hosni Mubarak would be leaving office.

Speaking to reporters aboard Air Force One on Thursday morning, Gibbs said President Barack Obama is monitoring events and met national security adviser Tom Donilon before leaving Thursday morning for an event in Michigan.

"I don't know what the outcome of what is happening will be," Gibbs said.

Egypt's military announced on national television earlier in the day that it has stepped in to "safeguard the country" and assured protesters that Mubarak will meet their demands. That was seen as the strongest indication yet that the longtime leader has lost power.

But Mubarak's lack of a clear resignation announcement set off an immediate outcry among protesters gathered in central Cairo. 

"America is committed to doing everything we can to support an orderly and genuine transition to democracy in Egypt," said President Barack Obama during a speech Thursday in Michigan.

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