CAIRO — As a new era dawned in Egypt on Saturday, the army leadership sought to reassure Egyptians and the world that it would shepherd a transition to civilian rule and honor international commitments like the peace treaty with Israel.
Exultant and exhausted opposition leaders claimed their role in the country's future, pressing the army to lift the country's emergency law and release political prisoners and saying they would present their vision for the government. And they vowed to return to Tahrir Square next week to honor those who had died in the 18-day uprising that toppled Hosni Mubarak after nearly 30 years of authoritarian rule.
In an announcement broadcast on state television, an army spokesman said Egypt would continue to abide by all of its international and regional treaties and the current civilian leadership would manage the country's affairs until the formation of a new government. But he did not discuss a timetable for any transfer of power, and it was unclear how and when talks with opposition figures would take place.
The army spokesman said the military was "aspiring to guarantee the peaceful transition of power within the framework of a free democratic system that allows an elected civilian power to rule the country, in order to build a free democratic state." The impact of Egypt's uprising rippled across the Arab world, as protesters turned out in Algeria, where the police arrested leading organizers, and in Yemen, where pro-government forces beat demonstrators with clubs.
The Palestinian leadership responded by announcing that it planned to hold presidential and parliamentary elections by September. And in Tunisia, which inspired Egypt's uprising, hundreds demonstrated to cheer Mubarak's ouster.
Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, will travel to Jordan and Israel for talks as both countries deal with the reverberations from Egypt's revolution.
In Tahrir, or Liberation, Square, some members of the movement that toppled Mubarak vowed to continue their protests, saying that all their demands had not yet been met.
A long list included an end to the emergency law that allows detention without charges, the dissolution of the Parliament, seen as illegitimate, and for some of the protesters, the prosecution of Mubarak.
About 50 protesters stood in the square Saturday morning, as the military removed barricades and concertina wire on the periphery.
But the uprising's leading organizers, speaking at a news conference in central Cairo, asked protesters to leave the square.
The group, the Coalition of the Youth of the Revolution, which includes members of the April 6 Youth Movement, the Muslim Brotherhood Youth and young supporters of Mohamed ElBaradei, a prominent opposition figure, said it had not yet talked with the military and that on Sunday it would lay out its road map for a transitional government.
The coalition said that Ahmed Zewail, a Nobel laureate in chemistry, and other respected figures would work as intermediaries between the youth group and the military.
''The power of the people changed the regime," said Gehan Shaaban, a group spokeswoman. "But we shouldn't trust the army. We should trust ourselves, the people of Egypt."
Again, there were signs that not all the protesters were willing to give up. During the news conference, a protester yelled: "We should all head to Tahrir and stay there, until we ourselves are sure that everything is going as planned! The government of Ahmed Shafiq has to go!" Shafiq is the prime minister. The woman's shouts brought the news conference to a close.
As the protesters and opposition groups prepared an agenda, they sought clues about exactly whom they were negotiating with. On Friday, Vice President Omar Suleiman said Mubarak had authorized the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces to manage the state's affairs, marking the transition from civilian to military rule.
Suleiman, a former general who became Egypt's foreign intelligence chief, straddled the two worlds. But Hosam Sowilam, a retired general, said Suleiman no longer played a leadership role. "Omar Suleiman finished his time," he said. "He's 74 years old." Others were not so quick to dismiss Suleiman, a close ally of Mubarak who was mentioned as his successor.
In interviews, protest leaders said they assumed that the defense minister, Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi, 75, who was considered a loyalist of Mubarak, was now the country's de facto leader. On Saturday morning, his convoy tried to drive to Tahrir Square, according to a paratrooper stationed there. But he did not leave his car.
The military chiefs worked quickly to exert their influence, calling on citizens to cooperate with the police, after weeks of civil strife, and urging a force stained by accusations of abuse and torture to be mindful of the department's slogan: "The police in the service of the people."
Security officials said the recently appointed interior minister, Mahmoud Wagdy, visited units of the department's feared security services Saturday, in the hopes of returning police officers to work. The officers vanished from Egypt's streets on Jan. 29 after violent clashes with protesters, and only small numbers have returned.
Reuters reported that Tantawi met with Wagdy to discuss the officers' return.
That security force, including plainclothes officers widely accused of abuse, are loathed by the protesters, who have demanded police reform to end brutality and, in particular, torture in police stations. Prosecutors are weighing charges against the previous interior minister, Habib al-Adly, who seemed to ignore or encourage police abuses. But some analysts have suggested that he is a scapegoat, and that the real problem was a government that relied on harsh tactics.
At the same time, neighborhoods in Cairo and other cities have for weeks been forced to function without the police. The lack of public safety was underscored Friday, when security officials said hundreds of inmates, freed by armed gangs, escaped from a prison in Cairo.
While the Egyptian military's commitment to international treaties reassured the United States and Israel, there was no indication whether such a pledge would survive a new government. The protesters in the square made it clear that they would reconsider all of Mubarak's foreign alliances, and many frequently referred to the deposed president as an Israeli or American agent.
Hamdy Hassan, a former member of Parliament from the Muslim Brotherhood, said the military had "acknowledged the revolution's legitimacy," but added that there were still doubts about its intentions. "We want a guarantee that we do not have another tyrant."
In Cairo, citizens embraced their new reality with humor, mild arguments and celebrations. The official state press gave a measure of the changes.
''The People Toppled the Government" said the headline in Al Ahram, the flagship state-owned national newspaper and former government mouthpiece, borrowing a line from the protest movement. Another article noted that Switzerland had frozen the assets of Mubarak and his aides.
On state television, which for weeks depicted the protesters as a violent mob of foreigners, an anchor spoke of the "youth revolution."
Security officials said Saturday that the information minister, Anas el-Fekky, who many of the protesters say should be fired, was placed under house arrest.
In Tahrir Square thousand of volunteers who brought their own brooms or cleaning supplies, swept streets and scrubbed graffiti from buildings. On the streets around the square, the celebrations from the night before continued, spurred on by honking drivers.
At night, the party started early, as tens of thousands of Cairo residents and visitors from all over Egypt filled the square, dancing and snapping pictures of their children standing on vigilant tanks.
The president's departure to his home by the Red Sea in Sharm el-Sheik, seemed for some to have stripped the country's woes of some urgency.
ElBaradei's brother, Ali ElBaradei, said Mohamed ElBaradei was taking the day off and had not been contacted by the military. "They will call when they call," he said.Comment on this story
Amr Hamzawy, who has acted as a mediator between the protesters and the government, said that "everyone is taking a break," though he expressed concern with the vague nature of the army's most recent statements.
''What is the timeline we are looking at?" he said. "Is it September?" He also said it was unclear whether the army council ruling the country favored amending the constitution or starting from scratch, which is the preferred solution for many of the protesters.
There was also no clear sign from the military about whether it intended to abolish Parliament, Hamzawy said, adding that so far the military's tone had been "very, very positive."
Much of the confusion was caused by the way Mubarak left, he said. "He was trying very hard to stay in office, and he played his last card" by delegating authority to Suleiman, he said. "It badly failed, and they pushed him out."