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Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak Resigns

After 30 years in power, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak has resigned.

On state-run TV Friday, the day of the biggest-yet anti-government demonstrations, Mubarak's appointed Vice President Omar Suleiman made the brief announcement of the president's departure from office. 

"In these grave circumstances that the country is passing through, President Hosni Mubarak has decided to leave his position as president of the republic," a grim-looking Suleiman said. "He has mandated the Armed Forces Supreme Council to run the state. God is our protector and succor."

In a statement several hours after Mubarak's resignation, a military spokesman praised Mubarak's service to Egypt through peace and war, and said the Armed Forces Supreme Council is studying the situation and will announce its plans shortly. The military will allegedly at some point announce the dissolution of the parliament and the Shura council, essentially sacking the entire government, reports broadcaster Al-Arabiya.

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Retired General Mahmoud Khalaf told CBS News correspondent Terry McCarthy that the army knew Mubarak was going to step down yesterday.

Khalaf said the army will withdraw from power in 6 months to one year, "or maybe less". He said the army was the only institution that could "control the transformation" that is about to take place.

After Mubarak's resignation, President Barack Obama said: "The people of Egypt have spoken. Their voices have been heard. And Egypt will never be the same."

In brief remarks at the White House, the president noted that it was "not the end of Egypt's transition, it's a beginning." He said that many important questions remain to be resolved and difficult times lie ahead.

"For Egypt, it was the moral force of nonviolence, not terrorism, not mindless killing, but nonviolence, moral force, that bent the arc of history toward justice." Obama singled out the military for praise, saying it helpfully as a "caretaker" in defusing the situation and securing the country.

Mubarak had been facing historic demonstrations from hundreds of thousands of anti-government protesters throughout Egypt for the last 18 days.

In reaction to his resignation, the massive crowds demonstrating in Cairo broke out in wild celebrations.

Reporters in Tahrir Square said that the crowd reaction was "deafening." The hundreds of thousands of protesters chanted: "The people have brought down the regime."

Crowds have remained in Tahrir Square all through the night, hours after Mubarak's resignation was announced by his vice president.

However, not all the post-resignation demonstrations were peaceful. A governor of a southern province was forced to flee to safety in the face of protests there.

Mubarak had fled Cairo earlier Friday, a day after transferring some power to Suleiman in an effort to quell weeks of protests. The embattled ruler left the capital for the Red Sea resort city of Sharm el-Sheikh, where he has a private residence.

Reports that he has fled the country for a safe haven elsewhere in the Arab world - or for medical care in Europe - are inaccurate, sources told CBS News.

Even if were to try to flee the country, he may find paying for it difficult. Estimates of Mubarak's personal fortune range between $2 billion and $70 billion, but the Swiss government announced Friday that it was immediately freezing any money in its banks belonging to Mubarak or his family.

President Barack Obama was informed of Mubarak's decision to step down during a meeting in the Oval Office, reports CBS News correspondent Mark Knoller. He then watched TV coverage of the scene in Cairo for several minutes in the outer Oval. He will make an on-camera statement later today.

Mubarak reportedly left during or immediately after his speech to the nation last night, which was taped in advance.

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Protesters, Mubarak GENERIC AP/CBS

A U.S. official told CBS News that it looks like Mubarak "called an audible" last night and "hardened his resolve" at the last moment. A number of Egyptian officials were surprised by the speech. The feeling among some Egyptian officials that he had double crossed them and the fact that the speech only made things worse sealed his fate. He had lost control of the streets and lost support within the regime.

The army is now very much in public favor, CBS News correspondent Elizabeth Palmer reports. If the military allows the celebrations to carry on for some time - perhaps hours or perhaps a few days - it will likely be in a credible position to ask the protesters to go home so that the country can begin returning to normal business and a democratic reform process.

Many reports estimate that Egypt's economy was losing about $300 million every day as a result of demonstrations and strikes.

Mubarak was widely expected to announce he was stepping down Thursday in his highly anticipated speech. Instead he said he would transfer some unspecified powers to Vice President Omar Suleiman and remain president until elections in September. As Mubarak's speech was broadcast, premature victory celebrations among protesters in central Tahrir Square turned to bafflement, dismay, and rage.

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Now, however, protesters are celebrating.

Nobel Peace laureate Mohammed ElBaradei, whose young suporters were among the organizers of the protest movement, told The Associated Press, "This is the greatest day of my life."

"The country has been liberated after decades of repression," he said adding that he expects a "beautiful" transition of power.

Another opposition figurehead, Google manager Wael Ghonim, tweeted: "The real hero is the young Egyptians in Tahrir square and the rest of Egypt#Jan25."

Celebrations also broke it in every major city throughout the Mideast, according to media reports.

People in Tunisia, where successful anti-government demonstrations also recently toppled a longtime autocrat, cheered the announcement of Mubarak's departure. Thousands ran out celebrating in the streets. People were honking horns of their cars, and a demonstration outside the Egyptian embassy has turned into a party.

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