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Mubarak's decision disappoints European leaders

Following Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak's decision to stay in power despite strong expectations he would step down, European leaders have weighed in with criticism of the embattled president's announcement.

Protesters in Egypt

Protests are expected to reach new heights Friday

German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle was on an airplane somewhere between Berlin and New York when the surprising news reached him that Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak had announced he would not be ceding power as many had believed he would.

Hosni Mubarak

Mubarak's speech created many new questions

Speaking in New York ahead of a plenary session of the United Nations Security Council, Westerwelle said that Mubarak's decision to remain in office would not pacify the Egyptian people, who had already lost faith in Mubarak and have been calling for his resignation for weeks.

"That was a disappointing speech [from Mubarak] for most of those who are gathering in squares and demonstrating for their rights," Westerwelle said in German television's Morgenmagazin program.

In a speech broadcast on Egyptian television Thursday night, Mubarak did not announce his resignation as protesters had hoped. Instead, he said he would hand over powers to Vice President Omar Suleiman but remain in office until scheduled elections in September.

"I'm afraid that this speech won't pacify anyone, and for that reason we are looking ahead to Friday - the day of prayer in Egypt - with no lack of concern," Westerwelle said. "We demand and expect that the people who demonstrate will be able to do so without hindrance and without violence being used against them."

Sense of confusion

Rather than rejoicing over a clear and defining break with the old regime that would have come with Mubarak's resignation, the hopes of many Egyptians were dashed when Mubarak announced he did not intend to renounce power yet.

The protesting Egyptians weren't the only ones expecting Mubarak to step down - governments around the world had been planning on lending their assistance to a new government on Friday.

Guido Westerwelle

News of Mubarak's speech reached Westerwelle en route to New York

"If the Egyptians decide to go down the path of transformation, then we are ready - the German government and the European Union - to lend a hand in building a democracy in Egypt," Westerwelle said.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy echoed Westerwelle's calls for a democratic transfer of power in Egypt, whether it happens soon or in the elections in September.

"It's inevitable," Sarkozy said. "And what I wish from the bottom of my heart for the nascent Egyptian democracy is that they take the time to create political parties, structures, principles which will allow them to find the path of democracy and not the path of another form of dictatorship, religious dictatorship."

Until that happens, however, some confusion remains about who is in charge now that Mubarak has said he will transfer power to Vice President Omar Suleiman.

"It is not immediately clear what powers are being handed over and what the full implications are," said British Foreign Minister William Hague. "We think the solution to this has to be owned by the Egyptian people themselves."

Author: Matt Zuvela
Editor: Susan Houlton

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