Egypt\'s new military leadership on Saturday vowed to pave the way for democracy and abide by international treaties as the hopeful country celebrated victory on the day after Hosni Mubarak\'s overthrow.
The Supreme Council of the Armed Forces said the current government would remain in place for a peaceful transition to "an elected civil authority to build a free democratic state," though it set no official timetable.
The streets and squares of downtown Cairo were in the hands of the mostly young demonstrators whose determined 18-day revolt overturned 30 years of autocratic rule and triggered an outpouring of national solidarity.
But political power now rests with the military commanders who stepped into the vacuum left by Mubarak\'s departure, and many people are anxiously waiting to see if they will make good on their promise to respect the popular will.
In Tahrir Square, the epicentre of the revolt, many of the anti-regime protesters who have occupied the city\'s vast central plaza since January 28 launched a massive cleanup effort with hundreds of volunteers.
"It\'s party time! We are born again," declared 40-year-old agricultural engineer Osama Saadallah. "We were behind other countries, now we are worth something in the eyes of others, of the Arab world."
Many chose to celebrate the first day of a new era for their country by clearing the detritus of Friday night\'s mega-party in Tahrir, taking pride in showing the civic spirit in their nation reborn.
In a sign that normal life was returning, state television announced that a curfew in effect since January 28 would be shortened by four hours and the stock exchange was now expected to reopen on Wednesday.
But insecurity lingered, as 600 prisoners escaped from a Cairo jail on Saturday after riots broke out and gunmen fired at guards from outside the facility, according to security officials.
The Cairo press, including state-run titles that had initially dismissed the uprising or charged it was being fomented by foreigners, hailed the "revolution of the youth."
In the Suez canal city of Ismailiya, hundreds of members of the widely hated police force marched in solidarity with the uprising, claiming they had been ordered against their will to shoot at protesters.
But if Egypt\'s revolution is to serve as an example to the region, as Tunisia\'s revolt inspired Egypt, much will depend on the stance of the junta now in control of the Arab world\'s most populous nation.
Headed by a longtime Mubarak loyalist, 75-year-old Field Marshal Mohammed Hussein Tantawi, the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces clarified its plans with "Communique Number 4," read by a spokesman on state TV.
The council said Egypt would "remain committed to all its regional and international treaties," implicitly confirming its landmark 1979 peace treaty with Israel would remain intact, soothing fears in the Jewish state and Washington.
The army was widely praised for allowing the massive protests to unfold and eventually shepherding Mubarak out of power.
In the euphoric atmosphere of Tahrir Square -- all night Egyptians had drummed, sang and danced, firing jets of flame from aerosol bottles -- it was hard to believe the news of Mubarak\'s ouster had broken just hours earlier.
A grim-faced Vice President Omar Suleiman announced the handover on state television late Friday after more than a million furious marchers took to the streets of Cairo, Alexandria, Suez, Port Said and beyond.
Earlier, the 82-year-old Mubarak flew from Cairo to his Red Sea holiday retreat at Sharm el-Sheikh, his ruling party said.
As Cairo erupted in joy, US President Barack Obama said "Egyptians have made it clear that nothing less than genuine democracy will carry the day."
Egypt\'s powerful Islamist opposition group, the Muslim Brotherhood, hailed Mubarak\'s resignation and thanked the army, "which kept its promises" during the revolt.
"My message to the Egyptian people is that you have gained your liberty," prominent opposition figure Mohamed ElBaradei told Al-Jazeera television.
Arab League chief Amr Mussa, who last week joined the crowds in Tahrir Square and could emerge as a presidential candidate, hailed fellow Egyptians and the army for their "historic achievement."
Saudi Arabia, a close ally of Mubarak, on Saturday welcomed the "peaceful transition of power" in Egypt.
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