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Egypt ruling party leaders resign but regime holds
12 mins ago
CAIRO – The leadership of Egypt's ruling party stepped down Saturday as the military figures spearheading the transition tried to placate protesters without giving them the one resignation they demand, President Hosni Mubarak's. The United States gave key backing to the regime's gradual changes, warning of the dangers if Mubarak goes too quickly.
But protesters in the streets rejected the new concessions and vowed to keep up their campaign until the 82-year-old president steps down. Many are convinced that the regime wants to wear down their movement and enact only superficial democratic reforms that will leave its deeply entrenched monopoly on power in place.
Tens of thousands thronged Cairo's central Tahrir Square in a 12th day of protests, waving flags and chanting, "He will go! He will go!"
Mubarak, who has ruled Egypt with an authoritarian hand for nearly 30 years, insists he must stay in office until his term ends, after a September presidential election. The military figures he has installed to lead the government — Vice President Omar Suleiman and Prime Minister Ahmed Shafiq — have offered in the meantime to hold negotiations with the protesters and the entire opposition over democratic reforms to ensure a fair vote.
A day after President Barack Obama pushed Mubarak to leave quickly, the U.S. administration changed tone Saturday with a strong endorsement of Suleiman's plans.
"It's important to support the transition process announced by the Egyptian government actually headed by now-Vice President Omar Suleiman," Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said at an international security conference in Munich, Germany. She warned that without orderly change, extremists could derail the process.
A U.S. envoy who met Mubarak earlier this week, former ambassador Frank Wisner, went further still, saying it is "crucial" that Mubarak remain in place for the time being to ensure reforms go through. He pointed out that under the constitution, a Mubarak resignation would require new elections in two months, meaning they would take place under the current rules that all but guarantee a ruling party victory.