Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak handed over his presidential powers to Vice President Omar Suleiman and announced a number of constitutional amendments on Thursday (February 10th).
Millions gathered in Tahrir Square to listen to Mubarak and witness what has been described as a "historic" moment. However, some demonstrators expressed disappointment when Mubarak did not announce his resignation.
In his speech, Mubarak said he trusts the "true intentions" of the Egyptian people and expressed his sorrow for the loss of life during the mass demonstrations that started on January 25th.
The president reiterated that he will not seek another term in office. He said five articles in the constitution will be amended, and one will be canceled, paving the way for the lifting of the emergency law.
"I value you as a symbol for the new generation that calls for change for the better," Mubarak said, addressing the young protestors who have been calling for his departure.
He said all those responsible for spilling the blood of "our youth" will be held accountable and brought to justice, adding that he feels the pain of their families and has issued orders for a speedy investigation into their killing.
He called the demands of the protestors "just and legitimate", saying that mistakes are made by every regime, but it is important to hold those committing errors accountable.
He said "constructive" national dialogue started in response to these demands, which resulted in the formation of a committee that will consider amendments to the constitution.
He said articles 76, 77, 88, 93 and 198 will be amended, which changes the conditions for candidates' eligibility to run for the presidency, sets term limits and ensures the transparency of elections.
Article 179 will be canceled, he said, paving the way for the lifting of the country's emergency law.
Many Egyptians have been critical of the nation's emergency law which has been in effect since Sadat's assassination. The law allows the government to arrest individuals without charges and hold them in detention indefinitely. The law also places severe restrictions on freedom of assembly which undercuts attempts to form opposition political parties.
Mubarak vowed to keep his promise for transparent presidential elections in September.
He said he will "put Egypt first above all considerations" and will transfer presidential powers to the vice president in way that follows the constitution.
He said Egypt is going through difficult times with big economic losses. He said those calling for change and reform risk becoming the first to suffer if these difficult times continue.
Conflicting reports about Mubarak's intentions preceded the address, which protestors anticipated with cheers and trepidation.
"What happened is more than we imagined", Sally Toma, a protestor, told Al Jazeera.
Mubarak held separate meetings with Prime Minister Ahmed Shafiq and Suleiman hours before his address.
Mubarak, 82, became president of Egypt eight days after the assassination of President Anwar Sadat during a military parade to commemorate the 1973 war with Israel.
Most of his career was spent in the military. He served as commander in chief of the air force. He was named vice president in 1975.
Mubarak won three elections unopposed in 1987, 1993 and 1999. He was last elected in 2005, winning a campaign against Ayman Nour in an election that was widely criticised for fraud. Nour was jailed shortly after the elections.
In 2007 the constitution was amended which made it more difficult for opposition leaders to run for president. The amendments also allowed the president to disband parliament.
For decades Mubarak declined to name a vice president. Reports about his health dominated the news last year. In 2010 he went to Germany to receive gall bladder surgery.
Omar Suleiman, the current vice president, served as director of central intelligence before his latest nomination. He is a lieutenant general in the army and is close to Mubarak.