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Egyptian Protesters Disgusted Mubarak Won't Resign

STEVE INSKEEP, host:

It's MORNING EDITION from NPR News. Good morning, I'm Steve Inskeep.

Protests have spread across Cairo on this Friday, after President Hosni Mubarak gave a speech but declined to resign. Protesters have been standing outside the state TV headquarters. They've been standing outside a presidential palace. And the crowd is gathering, once again, in Cairo's Tahrir Square, which is where we're going next. NPR's Lourdes Garcia-Navarro is there. And Lourdes, what do you see?

LOURDES GARCIA-NAVARRO: Well, there is an absolute sea of humanity flowing into Tahrir Square. Clearly one of the biggest protests yet, that is what the demonstrators here wanted. They wanted a real show of force today, to send a signal to Hosni Mubarak, that they were not satisfied with his speech yesterday. They want him to resign. You can hear the drums, here, behind me. A very festive atmosphere, but also, a very serious one. There was a lot of anger yesterday, about what Hosni Mubarak said. They really want him to step down.

INSKEEP: Now, over the last several days we've watched as different security arrangements have been made in the square, as the military and security agencies have moved in and moved out. Do you see any sign of the government around?

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Well, what we've seen, certainly, is the military has been holding its positions, as it has been throughout this uprising. And we saw a lot of military around the government building, which is where the protesters have moved over night. And of course, the military is stationed key locations around the city.

INSKEEP: Now we know that the protesters want Mubarak to go, are they giving you a sense of how they want that to happen, how they believe they can make that happen in the coming days?

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Well, I think the plan is to make that happen, how they have been. Basically, a show of force. We had a military statement come out today, basically backing the moves that Mubarak made, by defaulting some of his powers to Omar Suleiman, his vice president, and basically, that has also angered protesters here. They have always felt that the military's on their side, but they were disappointed, they were expecting, or hoping, that the military would, perhaps, even step in. There have been rumors of coups and divisions within the military, but the statement that came out from the military, is that they are backing regime for now.

INSKEEP: Mohamed ElBaradei, one of the leading figures among the protesters, the Nobel Prize winner, is one of those who's been saying that he hopes the army will step in. And he's saying he has not lost hope. Is there still some hope, among the protesters, that the army could make a decision to come down on their side, as opposed to coming down on Mubarak's side?

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Well, it remains to be seen. I mean, as you know, it's a very fluid situation. But I think the general answer to that question could be seen right in front of me, by the direction in which people are moving which is towards Tahrir Square. They are voting with their feet. The army asked them, today, to stay home, they ask them to trust the army, that the army would ensure that their demands were met over time for democracy, free elections. And people are still converging here, they are not listening to the army, they are not listening to Hosni Mubarak, they are voting with (technical difficulties).

INSKEEP: Mohamed ElBaradei also published an op-ed article in the New York Times, laying out what he considered a specific way to move forward not to amend Egypt's constitution, but to do away with it, to abolish it, to bring in place a provisional constitution, to bring in some kind of presidential council a three person team who would run the country. Do you have a sense, though, that protesters are well organized behind some specific program like that, or are they still unclear on what they want to happen once Mubarak leaves?

GARCIA-NAVARRO: I think that's a much more favorable outcome than the one that we've seen now. What the government here is positing is its rational transition to power, where the protesters will trust that the government would ensure that there'll be free and fair elections. They call this a revolution. They get very upset if you say that this is a popular uprising. And a revolution, they say, means doing away with the old and bringing in the new. And I think one of the things they would like to see, is indeed, that constitution changed, the parliament, basically, chucked out the window because of the fraudulent elections, and a whole new order restored to this country.

INSKEEP: Do you have any sense, Lourdes Garcia-Navarro, if Mubarak has actually increased the opposition to him by the actions yesterday, by the expectation that he would resign, followed by the surprise that he did not?

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Absolutely. I think that there's no question in my mind that that actually emboldened the opposition. There was such a sense of expectation on the square, yesterday, I really can't overemphasize. People were just so ecstatic, and their faces fell the moment that speech ended and they realized they didn't get what they want. And they really do feel that this is a broad-based movement that will only gather momentum over time.

INSKEEP: I really feel like I'm in touch with this situation because I've been listening to you and your colleagues on the ground in Cairo. Lourdes, thanks very much.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

INSKEEP: Hi, Lourdes. Good to talk with you again.

GARCIA: Hi.

INSKEEP: So what is happening now as the scene has been developing there outside the television building in Cairo?

GARCIA: And what the protestors are doing are stopping people from going in and out. So you're seeing the state broadcaster not being able to - they have to apologize this morning for not having live guests on their show. The employees have basically barricaded themselves inside the building, and they're allowed to leave but nobody is allowed to come in. So that's caused some problems obviously for the broadcasters themselves.

INSKEEP: As best you could determine out there in the crowd, do the protestors know what they intend to make happen over the course of this day?

GARCIA: At the moment, they're really hoping that today will be a banner. More and more people will come out to the streets to show their disappointment with Hosni Mubarak's speech. And what they're ultimately hoping, as you know - as the rest of the world knows - is that Hosni Mubarak resigns.

INSKEEP: NPR's Lourdes Garcia-Navarro is in Cairo. Lourdes, thanks very much as always for your coverage.

GARCIA: you're welcome.

Lulu Garcia-Navarro is the host of Weekend Edition Sunday and one of the hosts of NPR's morning news podcast Up First. She is infamous in the IT department of NPR for losing laptops to bullets, hurricanes, and bomb blasts.
Steve Inskeep is a host of NPR's Morning Edition, as well as NPR's morning news podcast Up First.