SHIBIN EL-KOM, Egypt -- Days after Egypt's deadliest terror attack, President Hosni Mubarak announced yesterday that he will run for reelection, promising new antiterror laws and calling for a summit of Arab leaders in battered Sharm el-Sheik.
Mubarak, a key US ally, will face an election opponent in the September vote for the first time in a quarter century in office. He made a splashy start to his campaign with a nationally televised address surrounded by supporters cheering and reciting poetry in his honor.
The 77-year-old leader presented himself as Egypt's protector from instability and a proponent of reform, pledging further democratic change -- a promise his opponents quickly derided.
The call for an Arab summit next week in Sharm el-Sheik -- the Red Sea resort rocked by terror attacks that killed dozens -- aimed to signal a strong hand in the face of bombings many Egyptians fear mean a new wave of militant violence and damage to an ailing economy.
The summit will deal with the Palestinian-Israeli crisis, Iraq, and the ''many challenges that might drive the region to dangerous paths," Mubarak said.
He vowed to continue ''our battle against terrorism and the threat it represents to people and Egypt's future . . . never relinquishing the nation's security and stability."
Mubarak looked fit and smiled often during the hourlong speech at the secondary school he graduated from in 1946 in the Nile Delta town of Shebin el-Kom. He was frequently interrupted by applause from the audience, including his wife Suzanne and sons Alaa and Gamal.
Stepping off the podium, Mubarak waded into the crowd, shaking hands and hugging and kissing supporters.
Mubarak is expected to easily win a fifth six-year term in the Sept. 7 election, which comes after years of referendums in which he was the only candidate.
This year he ordered the constitution amended to allow opponents in the presidential race for the first time in Egypt's modern history, touting it as a major reform.
He faces unprecedented pressure for change from the United States and increasingly vocal opposition protests. Opposition parties have dismissed the open election as a sham and most have said they won't field candidates. So far, only one significant figure -- Ayman Nour, head of the Al-Ghad party -- has said he will run.
In his speech, Mubarak promised to end emergency laws put in place after the 1981 assassination of his predecessor, Anwar Sadat. He said he would replace them with antiterror legislation designed to ''besiege terrorism, uproot it and drain its resources."
The move was a nod to longtime opposition demands for an end to the state of emergency while depicting Mubarak as tough on militants.
Mubarak has long defended the emergency laws as necessary to fight terrorism. But political activists and human rights groups said they are used much more widely, granting authorities broad powers to detain people for extended periods without charges and bring civilians before military courts.
Mubarak promised further change in the constitution and reform legislation.
''I'm committed to continuing to build a modern society, a growing economy and free citizens in a democratic nation," he said. ''Your troubles are my troubles; your concerns are my concerns; your ambitions are my ambitions."
Nour slammed the promises, saying Mubarak should have immediately abolished emergency laws and that the president lacks credibility when talking about reform.
''It's sad that President Mubarak is now talking about reforming in six years all that he has destroyed in the past 24 years," said Nour, who intends to officially announce his candidacy tomorrow.
Mubarak's nomination was quickly approved by leading members of his ruling National Democratic Party, said Mohammed Kamal, a party leader.
Kamal insisted Mubarak wants the race to be competitive and transparent -- and to have Egypt's highest turnout ever. ''The high turnout will be a benchmark for our success," he said.
Fears of terrorism would be likely to boost Mubarak.
''These feelings decrease the pressure on the political regime, because people generally rally behind the regime when they feel there's a national challenge," said Diaa Rashwan, an Egyptian political analyst and expert on Islamic militancy.