NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) – News from Egypt travels fast in Astoria’s “Little Egypt.” Excitement was building for hours Thursday as many anticipated President Hosni Mubarak to announce that he would step down.
As Mubarak took the stage, Egyptians in a coffee shop on Steinway Street fell silent, but as the speech continued many began to grumble before eventually jumping out of their seats with rage at his defiant refusal to resign.
“That’s not what we expected – we expect for him to leave, that’s what we want” Mohammed Amin told CBS 2’s John Metaxas. “I’m really worried about my country.”
“Everybody is angry, not only me, not only these people here,” Ahmed Al Khoury said. “He can’t stop these people.”
One man told 1010 WINS’ Carol D’Auria that Mubarak is single-handedly destroying the country and fears that he will spark a civil war.
1010 WINS Reporter Carol D’Auria with Egyptian-Americans as they watch Mubarak announce he will stay.
Travel agent Mohammed Ibrahim had been streaming live news coverage from Arab news channels on his desktop, and told WCBS 880 reporter Monica Miller that his country is ready for the change.
Egyptian President Mubarak says he is not stepping down.
Mubarak announced that he will remain in office until September, but will transfer some of his authority to Vice President Omar Suleiman.
Mubarak said in a nationally televised address Thursday that the demands of protesters calling for his immediate ouster are just and legitimate. He said he had requested six constitutional amendments, answering one of the demands of the protesters. He said he would lift hated emergency laws when security permitted.
Mubarak also vowed to punish those behind violence over the past two weeks and offered condolences to the families of those killed.
Protests have kept Egypt in the crosshairs of chaos for 17 days. The rallies have grown stronger over the past couple of days because labor unions have staged massive strikes.
Earlier Thursday, protesters packed in Cairo’s central Tahrir Square chanting “We’re almost there, we’re almost there” and waving V-for-victory signs after the Egyptian military announced Mubarak would meet their demands.
But as the president refused to go protesters watched in stunned silence, slapping their hands to their foreheads in anger, some crying or waving their shoes in the air in a sign of contempt. After he finished, they resumed their chants of “Leave! Leave! Leave!”
President Barack Obama said, “We are witnessing history unfold” in Egypt and vowed the United States would continue to support an orderly and genuine transition to democracy. But he and the White House gave no indication if they knew what the next steps would be. The U.S. has close ties to the Egyptian military, which Washington give $1.3 billion a year in aid.
However, Obama has also had his critics throughout this ordeal. There was clear anger towards Obama on Thursday night, reports CBS 2’s Sean Hennessey.
“You have to say that we are with the Egyptian people and we are against a dictator. It’s not enough saying there should be a change,” Egyptian-American Ayman el Sawa said.
“The Obama administration has been talking the talk but not walking the walk,” said Dr. Ghassan Shabaneh, professor of internal studies at Marymount Manhattan College.
One expert observer said the wish to preserve Mideast peace trumps any other issue — even civil rights.
“America has always been very straightforward when it comes to Middle Eastern politics, you know, favoring stability over reforms, favoring stability over democracy or anything else,” Dr. Shabaneh said.
While some said it was a good day for the homeland, the overall disgust shows no signs of dissipating.
“It’s a step forward. It’s a step forward toward changing, step for democracy,” Wlid Solimin said.
“Everything is going to be bad, going to be bad,” Hesham Amin added.
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