ElBaradei: Change in Egypt inevitable

2011-01-18 20:22

Vienna - A regime change in Egypt is "inevitable" following the popular uprising in Tunisia, Egyptian opposition figure Mohamed ElBaradei said on Tuesday.

"It is inevitable. Change must come," ElBaradei told the Austrian news agency APA in an interview.

Last week, veteran Tunisian leader Zine El Abidine Ben Ali was forced to flee the country after days of mass protests.

And ElBaradei - former head of the UN atomic watchdog - suggested Egypt's long-standing president Hosni Mubarak will soon find himself in a similar position unless political reforms are made.

The diplomat, who headed the Vienna-based International Atomic Energy Agency for 12 years and even won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2005 for his work there, called for a boycott of Egypt's presidential elections in September, saying the regime in his home country should be brought to its knees via peaceful demonstrations.

"We're trying with peaceful means," he said in comments reproduced in German.

One-party regime

He and his supporters had already collected one million signatures for a petition calling for the democratisation of Egypt.

If more people signed up "then we will have the legitimacy to speak for everyone who has signed," ElBaradei said.

ElBaradei said he hoped the regime would change before this year's presidential elections.

"If that isn't the case, then I'll call for a boycott so that the regime can be exposed for what it is: a one-party regime."

ElBaradei has been calling for constitutional reforms to allow independents like himself to stand in this year's election.

But the government has dismissed his demands.

Living in fear

It is widely believed in Egypt that 82-year-old incumbent president, who has ruled for 29 years, wants to pass on the baton to his 47-year-old son Gamal Mubarak, a banker who has been pushing for liberal economic reforms.

ElBaradei said he was setting his hopes on the 60% of Egyptians who were younger than 30, "who have no hopes and no future, but above all no ulterior motives."

Older Egyptians had either come to terms with the regime or were afraid of it, he said.

"People have every reason to live in fear, because they can be arrested and tortured," he said, adding that he was prepared in principle to stand as a candidate in the presidential elections "as long as they are free and fair".

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