Cairo: As Egypt was gripped by uncertainty after the refusal of President Hosni Mubarak to step down, the country's military Supreme Command Council on Friday told the people to standby for an "important statement" as hundreds of thousands of people started gathering on the streets for what appears to be a massive showdown.
In less than 24 hours, military's Supreme Command Council met under the Defence Minister Hussein Tantawi and was to make an important statement to the people.
"The Supreme Council for the armed forces, presided over by the Defence Minister is holding an important meeting" the state news agency MENA reported, as it told the people to standby for an important announcement.
The protesters plan to march to the presidential palace after the Friday prayers.
This was a second time that the Supreme Command Council was meeting without the embattled Mubarak who is the country's armed forces Supreme Commander, and normally presides over such meetings.
Al-Arabiya channel quoting a top officer said, "The generals are in permanent session and were expected to make an announcement before the start of the Friday prayers".
The meeting of military top brass came as global expectations that Mubarak would announce his stepping down in his televised speech on Thursday night were dashed and leading to a chorus of indignation at the Egyptian strongman.
US President Barack Obama led leaders from EU, France, Germany, UK and Australia to say that there was still no "concrete" changes in Egypt.
Speaking after Mubarak's televised speech, the US President said, "The Egyptian people have been told there was a transition of authority, but it is not clear that this transition is meaningful or sufficient".
Earlier, a defiant Mubarak refused to step down immediately under any outside diktat and asserted that he will bow out only by September in a peaceful transition of power.
Confounding reports that he was planning to hand over power to his Vice President Omar Suleiman, a grim-looking 82-year-old Mubarak in a televised address said, "I will not accept to listen to matters dictated by countries abroad."
"I will remain adamant to shoulder my responsibility, protecting the constitution and safeguarding the interests of Egyptians (until the next elections)," he said, ignoring US President Barack Obama's suggestion to start the process of transition "now".
Shortly after his speech, there were reports that he had left the country for an unknown destination. But there was no official word on it.
Expressing disappointment over Mubarak's announcement, Obama asked the Egyptian leader to explain in "clear and unambiguous language the step by step process that will lead to democracy in the country."
The people at Tahrir Square reacted angrily to Mubarak's refusal to quit and took off their shoes and waved them at a giant TV screen showing his speech, shouting "Leave, leave!"
'Down with Mubarak', they chanted as hopes about Mubarak's resignation had run high after the military leadership had announced hours earlier that it would step in to ensure the country's security and see that the people's "legitimate" demands were met.
The build up for a celebrations turned into one of despair and widespread anger.
The protesters are planning to march to the heavily guarded presidential palace after the Friday prayers amid reports that Mubarak has flown out of the country.
But the country's top Generals have said that the Supreme Command Council will announce steps to protect the nation.
Some interpreted this as a step by the military to take over reins of the country.
The fast paced developments came as Iranian state-run Press TV quoted Egyptian Presidential sources as saying that Mubarak has left the country and that his address was taped.