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Egyptian military meets without Mubarak, suggesting a takeover

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Egyptian military meets without Mubarak, suggesting a takeover

In the strongest signal yet that President Hosni Mubarak would cede power Thursday night, the Egyptian armed forces announced that they had begun to take "necessary measures to protect the nation and support the legitimate demands of the people."

The step suggested that the military intended to take a commanding role in administering the strife-torn nation.

American news networks on Thursday quoted sources inside Mubarak's office as saying that the president intended to step down Thursday night, ceding power to Vice President Omar Suleiman.

Meanwhile, CIA Director Leon Panetta, testifying on Capitol Hill on Thursday, told the House Intelligence Committee that "there is a strong likelihood that Mubarak will step down this evening."

Speaking aboard Air Force One, White House spokesman Robert Gibbs would not confirm that Mubarak was leaving office, saying that developments remained fluid in Egypt.

Gibbs said President Barack Obama was monitoring events and met national security adviser Tom Donilon before leaving Thursday morning for an event in Michigan.

The secretary-general of Egypt's ruling party confirmed Thursday that a transition was underway and he expected Mubarak to address the nation soon.

Hossam Badrawi, a prominent doctor who was appointed to the ruling party's post last Saturday, told CNN he believed Mubarak's words would "accommodate the protesters."

Badrawi indicated that the transition process had been accelerated, but said certain constitutional reforms were needed before the president could relinquish power, remaining unclear on timing.

"The process is ongoing," Badrawi said. "This will give confidence to the protesters."

The military's supreme council was meeting Thursday, without Mubarak, its commander in chief, and announced on state TV its "support of the legitimate demands of the people," according to Al Jazeera.

The army said it had convened the meeting in response to the current political turmoil, and that it would continue to convene such meetings.

"Based on the responsibility of the armed forces and its commitment to protect the people and its keenness to protect the nation ... and in support of the legitimate demands of the people [the army] will continue meeting on a continuous basis to examine measures to be taken to protect the nation and its gains and the ambitions of the great Egyptian people," the statement, titled "Communique No. 1" said.

Thursday's meeting was chaired by Mohamed Tantawi, the defense minister, rather than Mubarak, who, as president, would normally have headed such a meeting.

The army's statement was met with a roar of approval from protesters in Tahrir Square, Al Jazeera reported.

Earlier Thursday, Hassan al-Roweni, an Egyptian army commander, told protesters in the square on Thursday that "everything you want will be realized."

Protesters have demanded that Mubarak stand down as president. 

This article originally appeared on GlobalPost.

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