Feb 1, 2011



Cairo, Egypt (CNN) -- Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak has decided not to seek re-election, a senior U.S. official involved in the Obama administration's deliberations on Egypt said Tuesday.

The official cited "reliable contacts in Cairo" for the news and said that Mubarak will make an announcement about his intention.

"There have been a lot of mixed signals" over the past week, said the official, but such an announcement would be "a significant step in the right direction."

The official said the White House has made clear "at the highest levels" that it wanted Mubarak to state that neither he nor his son, Gamal, would be a presidential candidate in the next elections set for September.

Mubarak's decision comes as Egypt teeters on a political precipice and it's unclear whether it will satisfy angry and frustrated demonstrators who want his immediate removal. Many vowed Tuesday not to leave Cairo's central square until Mubarak steps down.

A week of uprising, sometimes violent, took on the tones of revolution in the Arab world's most populous nation and the world watched, amazed at the possibility of emboldened popular discontent sparking change in the authoritarian state.

By afternoon, demonstrators stood shoulder-to-shoulder in Cairo's Tahrir Square for a "march of millions." In Arabic, Tahrir means liberation. Never did it seem more true.

Tuesday's demonstrations were greater in intensity but largely peaceful, though no one could say with any certainty what would come next; whether another decisive show of people power would result in change or lead to repression.

There was an air of jubilation in Tahrir Square, as though the government was sure to cave. But the reality through most of the day was that Mubarak had refused to yield.

Helicopters hovered. Soldiers stood guard with their guns at key locations.

The Interior Ministry had announced it would shut down mobile phone networks in preparation for Tuesday's protests. But some cell phone service was still available Tuesday afternoon.

Banks and schools were shuttered and ATM screens were dark. Gas stations ran out of fuel. Long lines snaked around bakeries and supermarkets as shops began to ration how much food customers could buy.

State television reported Monday that the crisis has cost the country an estimated 69 billion Egyptian pounds (nearly $12 billion) and set its economy back six months.

Egypt's new finance minister, Samir Radwan, announced Tuesday that salaries would be disbursed through banks' automatic teller machines and owners of vandalized businesses would be compensated.

The internet was still down as Egyptians, despite the hardships, voiced their determination to carry on. They defied again a 3 p.m. curfew to demand that Mubarak step down.

Protesters set up their own checkpoints to keep weapons out of Tahrir Square.

The Egyptian army issued a statement thanking "all the citizens and the youth for working with their armed forces to protect public and private property."

The demonstrations turned ugly last Friday when thousands of riot and plainclothes police used brutal force to crack down on people on the streets. Since then, the army has replaced police as the enforcers of security and the gatherings have been largely peaceful.

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