Reports have claimed that Egyptian President Hosni Mubarakand his family have left the capital Cairo.
TV news station Al Arabiya reported that Mr Mubarak had left for an ‘undisclosed location’, but was not thought to have fled the country. It is claimed he flew from a military base on the outskirts of Cairo.
The move came as thousands of protesters marched on the presidential palace. It is the first time there has been any major movement away from Tahrir Square, the epicentre for opposition to the regime.
EU leaders today renewed calls for a new government in Egypt after Mr Mubarak vowed to remain in power despite mass pro-democracy protests.
Foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said Mr Mubarak’s defiant speech late last night ‘has not yet opened the way to faster and deeper reforms’.
Jerzy Buzek, president of the EU Parliament, said that ‘a new government including all democratic forces is crucial for this transition’.
Baroness Ashton’s attempts to visit Cairo to help defuse the standoff between the regime and protesters have so far been blocked by Egyptian authorities.
Egypt’s foreign minister had responded by saying he would prefer not to have any foreign visitors this month, her spokesman said.
It comes after the Egyptian army threw its support behind Mr Mubarak and his decision to remain until September.
A statement by the military, made hours after the president’s televised address, followed a meeting of the Armed Forces Supreme Council led by defence minister Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi.
It endorsed Mr Mubarak’s plans for a peaceful transition of power and presidential elections later this year. It also supported his promise to lift the emergency laws, which have been in force since 1981.
The military called for public services and urged ‘the return of normal life in order to safeguard the achievements of our glorious people’.
The EU has been increasingly concerned over events in Egypt, with officials worrying that it could spin out of control unless Mr Mubarak gives in to protesters’ demands.
British Foreign Secretary William Hague called for an ‘urgent but orderly transition’ in Egypt.
He told the BBC: ‘We’re studying very closely what the president and the vice president of Egypt have said.’
Mr Hague said it was unclear what powers Mr Mubarak had transferred to his vice president.
Egypt’s ambassador to the U.S. insisted that Mr Suleiman was now the de facto head of state.
Sameh Shoukry told CNN: ‘The president indicated very clearly he was transferring all his presidential authority to the vice president.’
U.S. President Barack Obama called for ‘concrete change’ in Egypt in a strongly-worded statement last night.
Hopes that Mr Mubarak would step down were replaced by widespread anger after he only ceded some of his power to Vice President Omar Suleiman.
He said: ‘The Egyptian people have been told that the government is serious about a genuine transition to democracy, and it is the responsibility of the government to speak clearly to the Egyptian people and the world.
‘The Egyptian government must put forward a credible, concrete and unequivocal path toward genuine democracy, and they have not yet seized that opportunity.’
Leading dissident Mohamed ElBaradei wrote on his Twitter page: ‘Egypt will explode. Army must save country now.’
There was a surprising lack of violence after Mr Mubarak defied the protesters and predictions from the international community that he would step down.
CIA Director Leon Panetta has lent support to reports that he would announce his departure.
The surprise decision to stay on led to the strongest rebuke yet by Mr Obama towards the Egyptian government, but he failed to mention Mr Mubarak by name and did not threaten to withold crucial military aid.
In his statement, Mr Obama told Egypt to ‘move swiftly to explain the changes that have been made, and to spell out in clear and unambiguous language the step-by-step process that will lead to democracy and the representative government’.
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