Egypt’s Mubarak finally steps down

Egypt’s President Hosni Mubarak has said he will stay in office and transfer power only after September’s presidential election.

His comments confounded reports he was preparing to stand down immediately. He said he would ignore “diktats from abroad”.

President Mubarak said he would delegate some powers to Vice-President Omar Suleiman.

Egypt’s military earlier said it was standing ready to “protect the nation”.

“I express a commitment to carry on and protect the constitution and the people and transfer power to whomever is elected next September in free and transparent elections,” Mr Mubarak said.

Speculation has been building earlier, as the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) confirmed there was a “strong likelihood” that Mr Mubarak would step down soon.

State television was interrupted earlier, with the high council of the Egyptian armed forces announcing it was preparing to “support the legitimate demands of the people”.

Egypt has been shaken by 17 days of protests, with thousands of demonstrators taking up residence in Tahrir Square in the centre of Cairo.

After a brief lull earlier in the week, hundreds of thousands of supporters have again been taking to the streets.

The Egyptian economy has been brought to its knees, with doctors earlier joining a general strike across the country.

Tourist areas – especially around Sharm-el-Sheikh - have remained relatively calm. However, tour operators have reported a drop in bookings.

Egyptian Information Minister Anas el-Fekky told Reuters news agency: “The president is still in power and he is not stepping down.

“The president is not stepping down and everything you heard in the media is a rumour.”

Mr Mubarak had previously pledged to quit office after presidential elections due to be held in September.