Weeks of protest in Egypt forced president Hosni Mubarak (photo, bbcimg.co.uk) to step down. He has handed his power over to the Supreme Council for the Armed Forces.
In a television address on Friday, vice-president Omar Suleiman announced that the president was “waiving” his office, and had handed over authority to the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces.
In Cairo’s Tahrir Square, the statement brought a roar of approval, celebratory chanting and flag waving from a crowd of hundreds of thousands, but also by other pro-democracy campaigners attending protests across the country.
Field Marshal Mohammed Hussein Tantawi, the Egyptian defence minister, is now the top figure in the country’s new regime. Crowds cheered him as he drove past Mubarak’s former palace after the announcement.
He stopped briefly to thank and hail the pro-democracy campaigners before driving in.
The Supreme Council of the Armed Forces said, in its third statement to the nation since Thursday, that it was examining the situation “in order to materialise the aspirations of our great nation”.
The statement said that “resolutions and statements regarding the … actions to be followed” in order to achieve the demands of the people will be handed down later.
In the televised address, the spokesman also extended “greetings and appreciation” to Mubarak for his service to the country, and saluted the “martyrs and those who have fallen” during the protests.
‘Free and independent’
In Tahrir, the crowd chanted “we have brought down the regime”, after Mr Suleiman’s statement, and many people were crying, cheering and embracing one another.
Mohamed ElBaradei, a leading opposition leader, described the moment to Al Jazeera as “a dream come true”.
“I can’t tell you how every Egyptian feels today,” he said. “We have been able to restore our humanity … to be free and independent”.
But Mr ElBaradei also repeated that Egypt now needs to go back to stability. He proposed that a transition government, which could include figures from the army, the opposition and other circles, be put in place for the next year.
“We need to go on … our priority is to make sure the country is restored as a socially cohesive, economically vibrant and … democratic country,” he said.
US president Barack Obama responded to the announcement by saying his country would “continue to be a friend and partner to Egypt”, and would provide whatever assistance was “necessary and asked for”.
He added that the voice of the Egyptian people had been heard, and that Mr Mubarak had “responded to the … people’s hunger for change”.
But the American president also said that the Egyptian military must ensure the rights of citizens are protected, that the state of emergency is lifted, the constitution revised and a clear path created to free and fair elections.
Catherine Ashton, the European Union’s foreign policy chief, told Al Jazeera that the 27-nation bloc “respect[ed] the decision that president Mubarak has taken” and that the EU wanted to “pay tribute to the dignity of” Egyptians’ behaviour at this time, and that Europe was ready to offer its assistance in this transition period in the fields of elections, building civil society and other areas.
In the mean time the Swiss foreign ministry confirmed that they have frozen assets linked to Mubarak.
Protests in Egypt started 18 days ago, gathering hundreds of thousands of Egyptians.
Cairo’s Tahrir Square became the focal point of protests, with people chanting slogans against the government and expressing their dissatisfaction with Mr Mubarak’s statement on Thursday night, when he had reiterated his vow to complete his term.
In Alexandria, the country’s second city, hundreds of thousands of people were also demonstrating. And protests were also reported from the cities of Mansoura, Mahalla, Suez, Tanta and Ismailia with thousands in attendance.
At least one person was killed and 20 wounded in the north Sinai town of el-Arish, when protesters attempted to storm a police station.
According to Al Jazeera, on Friday, growing crowds outside the palace led Mr Mubarak to leave Cairo for the Red Sea resort of Sharm al-Shaikh.