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Egypt Free!! ... But Is It Really? (VIDEO)

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Cairo, Egypt (CNN) — Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak stepped down Friday and handed over power to the military, his nearly three decades of iron rule ended by a groundswell of popular protests that began January 25.

In a somber, one-minute announcement on state television, Vice President Omar Suleiman announced Mubarak’s resignation and said the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces will “run the affairs of the country.”

As Suleiman spoke, deafening cheers erupted among tens of thousands of Egyptians who thronged the streets of Cairo. It was a moment they had sought throughout long, often tense days of demonstrations — some of them violent — that demanded Mubarak’s departure.

It was also a moment that many in the Arab world’s powerhouse nation had not dared contemplate.

Chants of “Egypt is free!” and “God is great!” rose from the crowds, dizzy in the honeymoon of their success. Some waved Egyptian flags; others honked horns; still others set off fireworks as they savored the scene.

Two major bridges over the Nile River resembled congested parking lots, and partiers packed streets throughout Cairo. The state-run Middle East News Agency said some people had passed out from joy and others had suffered heart attacks.

“It was a sense of liberation for me, for every Egyptian,”
said opposition leader Mohamed ElBaradei.
“For the first time, Egypt has a chance to be democratic, to be free, to have a sense of dignity, of freedom. So it’s amazing. It’s just like something we never experienced in our lifetime.”

Human Rights Watch has documented more than 300 deaths since the uprising began January 25. Many of the pitched battles between security forces and Mubarak's foes unfolded in the same places that were scenes of jubilation Friday night.

But Friday's revelry could not push aside the looming uncertainty over what will come next in the Arab world's most populous nation and how Egypt's revolution, which succeeded on the 32nd anniversary of Iran's, might affect the region.

Events in Egypt may extendfar beyond the country's borders, Moussa said.
"Winds of change are sweeping the Arab world and the Middle East,"
he said.

In Washington, U.S. President Barack Obama said the people of this key U.S. ally have made it clear that
"nothing less than genuine democracy will carry the day."

He praised the Egyptian military for acting responsibly and said it now needs to help ensure a credible transition.

Among other things, Egyptian authorities need to set about
"protecting the rights of Egypt's citizens, lifting the emergency law, revising the constitution and other laws to make this change irreversible, and laying out a clear path to elections that are fair and free,"
Obama said.

Amnesty International warned that Mubarak's departure did not mean an end to the police state.

"The repressive system that Egyptians have suffered under for three decades has not gone away and the state of emergency remains in place,"
said Salil Shetty, Amnesty International's secretary general.
"Those in power must grasp this opportunity to consign the systematic abuses of the past to history. Human rights reform must begin now."

They say it could take 7 months before state-of-emergency laws can be lifted.

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