Saturday, February 27, 2010

Ex-UN Nuclear Chief: Egypt is Hungry for Change

Via Yahoo! News (AP) -

The ex-U.N. nuclear chief who has emerged as an opposition leader in Egypt urged the government Saturday to respond to peaceful demands for change, cautioning it could face a popular uprising if it doesn't.

Mohamed ElBaradei, who returned to Cairo a week ago to a hero's welcome by supporters who see him as a possible rival to President Hosni Mubarak in next year's elections, told The Associated Press that he hopes to create a peaceful public movement pressing for electoral reforms.

"You have seen how much support I got even before I set foot in Egypt," said in an interview in the garden of his home on the outskirts of Cairo. "It shows that people are ready, I would say even hungry for change. But this is still something that has to take roots and has to spread to different parts of the country."

When asked if Egypt's government could face protests like those that broke out in Iran, he said he hopes to avoid that but it was ultimately up to the ruling system.

"It is inevitable that change will come to Egypt. What I'm trying to do is pre-empt a point of clash between the government and the people," he said.

"I hope the government will understand that you don't want for people to reach a point of desperation," he added. "What I am preaching right now, if you like, is peaceful change by everybody. If the government subscribes to that, I think all the better."

ElBaradei, 67, was coy about whether he plans to run in the 2011 presidential vote, saying that was not his primary goal. Instead, he said his main focus is drumming up support for his efforts to promote change and rallying the public as well as fellow opposition leaders behind his campaign.

He said it will be a long term process that requires educating people about basic rights and freedoms.

"My primary goal is to create the condition for a truly democractic political system," he said.

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