Mubarak Transfers Some Power to Vice President But Won't Step Down

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President Hosni Mubarak said he transferred some power to his vice president but refused to step down Thursday as tens of thousands of protesters calling for his resignation gathered in Cairo to hear the nationally televised address.

In a speech Mubarak said was "from my heart," the president said the protesters' demands that he step down were legitimate. He said he would lift emergency laws when security permitted and had requested six constitutional amendments. He said he would admit "mistakes" but was "committed" to steering the country out of this "difficult situation."

"The priority now is to recover trust amongst the Egyptians," Mubarak said.

He also vowed that "there is no going back to the old days."

The military said Thursday that it would step in to "safeguard the country" and told throngs of protesters in Tahrir Square that their demands will be met.

President Obama, speaking in Marquette, Michigan, on Thursday before the speech, said the U.S. supports a peaceful transition to democracy in Egypt but did not comment directly on Mubarak. He called it a "moment of transformation."

"America will continue to do everything we can to support an orderly and genuine transition to democracy in Egypt," Obama said.

Tens of thousands of Egyptians have choked the streets of capital Cairo for 17 days in a dramatic protest that began as a grass-roots Internet campaign to oust Mubarak from his 30-year reign. On Thursday, protesters in Tehrir Square chanted "We're almost there, we're almost there!"

The military supreme council announced on state TV its "support of the legitimate demands of the people." Mubarak, the commander in chief of the military, was not present at the council's meeting.

Mubarak addressed the swelling crowd in Tahrir Square for the first time four days into the protests and asked his Cabinet to resign and vowed reform, but protests continued.

Those watching the unrest unfold in New York's Egyptian community in Queens on Thursday were hopeful but still uncertain about what was to come for Egypt.

"Now in Egypt our dream [is] going to happen, you know what I mean?" said Mohammed Zaitoun, 28, who manages Firdos, a hookah bar, on Steinway Street in Astoria. "But I don't know what's going to happen. I'm so worried. I'm waiting for President Mubarak, what he's going to say."

Zaitoun said he came to New York five years ago, following his brothers many years earlier. He spoke against the backdrop of a television screen flashing images of Tahrir Square and said his brother, sister, nieces and nephews were somewhere in the massive crowd that had gathered there.

"The government make control about you for everything," he said. "For everything. They kill your dream. For life, for job, for love, for everything."

Reporting contributed by Marianne McCune and the Associated Press