Hosni Mubarak has decided to step down as president of Egypt and handed over power to the Supreme Council for the Armed Forces, according to an announcement read by Vice-President Omar Suleiman on state TV.

Mubarak, 82, had ruled Egypt since October 1981 when his predecessor Anwar el-Sadat was assassinated.

In his brief speech, Suleiman said the president was waiving his office.

In the name of God the merciful, the compassionate, citizens, during these very difficult circumstances Egypt is going through, President Hosni Mubarak has decided to step down from the office of president of the republic and has charged the high council of the armed forces to administer the affairs of the country, he said.

May God help everybody.

Protesters reportedly cheered at the announcement, waving flags, sounding car horns and dancing.

The development came as tens of thousands of protesters demonstrated in Cairo and other cities in the country demanding Mubarak’s resignation.

Activists in Cairo also marched on the presidential palace and state television buildings today, the 18th consecutive day of protests.

At the state television building, thousands have prevented people from coming or going, accusing the broadcaster of being a puppet of the current government and lying about the protests.

According to Al Jazeera, Mubarak left Cairo on Friday for the Red Sea resort of Sharm al-Shaikh.

At this time it is unclear what Mubarak will do next.

Meanwhile, the Egyptian army said it would lift a 30-year-old emergency law but only as soon as the current circumstances end.

The army also promised a free and fair national election in September.

However, amidst the ex-president’s resignation, euphoria seems to have descended upon Egypt.

High-profile opposition figure Mohamed ElBaradei has told AP This is the greatest day of my life. The country has been liberated after decades of repression” and that he expects a beautiful transition of power.