|Many Egyptians feel that president Hosni Mubarak’s concessions are ‘too little too late’ [AFP]|
Unimpressed by a pledgefrom president Hosni Mubarak’s that he would not renew his rule, thousands of Egyptian protesters are continuing to protest across the country, adamant that the president must step down.
Mubarak, in a defiant speech, announced he would not seek re-election in September, when his presidential term comes to an end.
But protesters reacted angrily, jeering him and once again calling for an immediate end to his 30-year reign.
“The speech is useless and only inflames our anger,” said Shadi Morkos in Tahrir square. “We will continue to protest.”
“We will not leave! He will leave!” others chanted at the time.
Clashes break out
Protests escalated on Wednesday as anti-government activists clashed with pro-Mubarak supporters who descended upon Tahrir square in central Cairo, where demonstrators have been camped out for days.
Our correspondent at the scene said people were “frenzied” with pro-government supporters chanting “With our blood and our souls, we will sacrifice for Mubarak”.
She said the atmosphere was tense, with potential battle lines being drawn between the two sides of the Egyptian divide.
Demonstrators have also clashed in Alexandria, the countrt’s second city, while smaller protests are continuing around the country.
Jane Dutton, an Al Jazeera reporter in Cairo, said there is now a “real standoff” between anti-government Egyptians and Mubarak, with neither side seeming to budge in the others’ direction.
“[Mubarak] has said he will step down, just not yet. He has offered them all these concessions, demands that they have made over many years, for other parties to run in the elections, for there to be a fixed term under the president.”
“But it’s too little too late,” she said.
“People are angry that these sort of changes are being imposed or suggested under a dictatorship, under this regime. They want him to go and they want him to go now.”
‘Opportunity for real change’
Speaking to Al Jazeera after Mubarak’s speech, protesters in Cairo echoed the same sentiments.
“I want to say that this man is provoking us. This man wants to have a massacre in this country that has been good to him and his children.” one male demonstrator said.
“Chants of ‘Down with the regime! Down with the president!’ started up again about 30 seconds after he was done with the speech,” Ashraf Khalil, a journalist based in Cairo, told Al Jazeera.
“Talking to the protesters in Tahrir Square, those who are remaining have made it clear that his latest concessions are unacceptable.
“They have no intention of giving him some sort of eight month farewell tour. They want him gone immediately and they plan to keep the pressure up,” Khalil said.
But to those demanding he leave Egypt, Mubarak said on Tuesday: “This is my country … and I will die on its soil”.
Barack Obama, the US president, reacted to his speech saying “orderly transition must be meaningful, it must be peaceful, and it must begin now”.
Floods of reaction to Mubarak’s speech has been posted on social networking sites, which have been seen as a vehicle for some of the protests.
“Mubarak said he wants to die in Egypt – careful what you wish for!” Guapo Plethora, a user on micro-blogging site Twitter, wrote.
Another, Iyad El-Baghdadi, tweeted “Live from Tahrir Square: Everyone considers Mubarak an ex-President and think his days are numbered.”
Mona Eltahawy, a columnist and public speaker on Muslim and Arab issues, also tweeted saying, “It’s Mubarak vs Egypt and Egypt must win. Armed forces [have] to understand. There is no way Mubarak can stay til September. OUT.”
Al Jazeera’s correspondents on the ground in Egypt reported the feeling on the streets.
“I was in Tahrir Square for Mubarak speech and once they heard offer to not run again, chanting started ‘get out get out’,” one of our correspondents tweeted.
Later he added: “Nobody there believes any of his promises any more. They know this is their opportunity for real change and won’t stop ’til it happens.”
Another tweeted that: “History may be repeating itself. Former Tunisian president Ben Ali gave three speeches and [vowed not to run again for elections].