A senior aide to President Hosni Mubarak tells Channel 4 News the embattled leader will step down imminently amid widespread unrest which has swept Egypt.

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Secretary General of the ruling NDP party, Dr Hossam Badrawi, told Channel 4 News he expects President Hosni Mubarak to stand aside in a televised address on Thursday.

Dr Badrawi told Channel 4 News he believes President Mubarak will pass his powers to newly appointed Vice President Omar Suleiman, a former general and intelligence chief.

"I'm expecting him to pass his decision for the constitution amendments and for him to go to the constitution and transmit his authorities as President to his Vice President," Dr Badrawi told Channel 4 News.

Dr Badrawi told International Editor Lindsey Hilsum that President Mubarak had reluctantly come to his decision and now recognises it is time to change.

"He sees himself as someone who served his country," he said.

"He made mistakes but he sees himself as someone that does not deserve getting out of power, of his service, that way. At the same time he realises that it’s the time to change. That’s my impression in the last two days."

His comments come amid widespread unrest in Egypt which has seen hundreds of thousands of people take to the streets calling for President Mubarak to stand down after 30 years in power.

Following news of Mubarak's departure Egypt said its Higher Military Council was in a state of continuous session to protect the nation and the aspirations of the people.

"The Higher Army Council held a meeting today under Hussein Tantawi the head of the armed forces and minister of defence to discuss the necessary measures and preparations to protect the nation, its gains and the aspirations of the people," the state news agency MENA said.

"The council decided to remain in continuous session to discuss measures that can be taken in this regard."

Al Arabiya television reported tonight that Egypt's army has warned that it will act if protesters refuse a plan of transferring power from President Hosni Mubarak to Vice President Omar Suleiman.

Meanwhile, addressing a public meeting in Michigan, President Obama said that the world was "watching history unfold".

He added: "We want all Egyptians to know that America will continue to do everything that we can to support an orderly and genuine transition to democracy in Egypt."

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President Mubarak to stand down

On Thursday doctors and lawyers joined demonstrations in the capital Cairo where thousands have poured into Tahrir Square (pictured above) demanding a change to the ruling regime.

Across the country workers and union members staged strikes and sit-ins at firms and government agencies. In Alexandria up to 3,000 workers of a state oil and gas firm walked out over pay and conditions, while the southern cities of Sohag and Assiut also saw significant protests and sit-ins.

After more than two weeks of mass demonstrations and an outbreak of strikes by Egyptian workers in the Arab world's most populous nation, the business community has warned about the economic impact to the country.

I'm expecting [Mubarak] to pass his decision… and for him to go to the constitution and transmit his authorities as President to his Vice President. Dr Hossam Badrawi to Channel 4 News

Channel 4 News reunited the actor Khalid Abdalla, who has spent much of the past two weeks in Tahrir Square, with his father Hossam Abdalla - a doctor and political activist now living in Britain.

Dr Abdalla said he was proud of his son - and those tens of thousands of other protesters in the Square.

"This is one of the best moments in Egyptian history," he said. "Here are people forcing their will - and it is one of the great revolutions of mankind. I know that we will be victorious.

"It is a moment in history that will live in the hearts and minds of everybody."

Professor Rosemary Hollis, of London's City University, told Channel 4 News that - after the shock of Tunisia - the "ripple effect" from Egypt would be "monumental". And she warned that Saudi Arabia could be affected.

"There is a sense that ' we want to be part of something that makes Arabs proud," she added. "That is not necessarily something that is good for stability and we don't know where this story is going to end."

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White House involvement

Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit has criticised US calls for Egypt to lift its emergency law and said the US should not impose their will on a "great country".

"When you speak about prompt, immediate, now - as if you are imposing on a great country like Egypt, a great friend that has always maintained the best of relationship with the United States - you are imposing your will on him," Aboul Gheit told US broadcaster PBS.

The White House said once again on Wednesday that Egyptian ministers must do more to meet the demands of protesters, who want an immediate end to Mubarak's tenure and sweeping legislative changes, particularly an end to emergency laws.

Mubarak's government hit back at what it called attempts to "impose" American will on a loyal Middle Eastern ally, saying rapid reforms would be too risky.

Organisers were promising another major push on the streets on Friday when protesters said they plan to move on to the state radio and television building in "The Day of Martyrs" dedicated to the dead which the United Nations says could number 300.