ElBaradei ready to lead transition gov't in Egypt

Pro-democracy advocate's campaign team says he's willing to abandon presidency bid if asked formally to form gov't.

November 27, 2011 00:58
2 minute read.
Mohamed ElBaradei.

Egyptian presidential candidate Mohamed ElBaradei 311. (photo credit: REUTERS)


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CAIRO - Egyptian presidential candidate Mohamed ElBaradei is prepared to drop his bid to be head of state if he is asked to lead a transition government to steer the country to civilian rule, his campaign team said on Saturday.

ElBaradei is offering himself as an alternative to Kamal Ganzouri, a veteran politician named by the country's ruling military council on Friday to head a new interim government after a week of protests and violence that has killed 42 people.

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The cabinet of Prime Minister Essam Sharaf resigned last week as the clashes spread.

On Saturday, Egyptians protesting against the appointment of 78-year-old Ganzouri, who served as Prime Minister in the 1990s under ousted president Hosni Mubarak, clashed with police firing tear gas in central Cairo.

ElBaradai's announcement stepped up pressure on the military council to drop its candidate for the top job and turn over more powers to civilians.

ElBaradei himself is respected among pro-democracy campaigners but many Egyptians view him as out of touch because he spent much of his career outside the country, particularly during his time at the head of the UN nuclear watchdog.

The flare-up of violence has cast another shadow over a parliamentary election that begins on Monday and has been billed as the nation's first free vote in decades.

ElBaradei's campaign team said he met with revolutionary youth coalitions and political parties who had rejected Ganzouri's appointment.

"The political forces and groups stressed that the only way out of the crisis is to form a national coalition government with full powers to manage the transitional period until presidential elections are held," ElBaradei's team said in a statement.

It said he would abandon his bid for the presidency if he were asked formally to form a government, "so as to be completely neutral in the interim period".

ElBaradei's office said earlier on Saturday that he had been in touch with the military council to discuss "the demands of the revolution", without reaching agreement. He also met with political groups.

Two days of voting are due to begin on Monday in the first stage of a complex, drawn-out election to parliament's lower house that will be completed in January. Voting for the upper house and the presidency will follow before the end of June.

Alarmed by the violence in Cairo and other cities, the United States and the European Union have urged a swift handover to civilian rule in a country where prolonged political turmoil has compounded economic woes.

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