PRESIDENT Hosni Mubarak wants to leave office, but fears there will be chaos in Egypt if he resigns now.
The beleaguered Egyptian leader said he was “fed up with being president and would like to leave office now, but cannot… for fear that the country would sink into chaos,” ABC’s Christiane Amanpour said, after interviewing Mubarak.
The sentiment was echoed by Egypt’s vice president, who urged protesters to go home after deadly clashes between opponents and partisans of Mubarak raged for a second day.
But pro-democracy demonstrators plan to give their embattled president a fresh ultimatum later today, converging on the streets of Cairo for a pivotal “Day of Departure” protest.
They hope to take their demands for change to the doors of Mubarak’s presidential palace, but the route of the march was thrown into doubt by the continuing chaos after another bloody day. Vice-President Omar Suleiman, addressing protesters hunkered down in Cairo’s Tahrir Square, said: “End your sit-in. Your demands have been answered.”
He criticised their demands for the president’s ouster as a “call for chaos.”
Mubarak, who has vowed not to stand in upcoming elections, has come under increasing pressure from the US and the West to step down amid 10 days of violent protests against his 30-year rule. But he said he had told US President Barack Obama “you don’t understand the Egyptian culture and what would happen if I step down now.”
Mubarak also said his government was not responsible for the violence in Tahrir Square and blamed the opposition Muslim Brotherhood. Pitched battles between Mubarak supporters and regime opponents left at least five people dead and 836 injured.
“I was very unhappy about yesterday. I do not want to see Egyptians fighting each other,” Mubarak was quoted as saying in an early snippet of the 20-minute interview with Amanpour.
“He told me that he is troubled by the violence we have seen in Tahrir Square over the last few days but that his government is not responsible for it,” Amnapour said in her account of the interview. “Instead, he blamed the Muslim Brotherhood, a banned political party here in Egypt,” she said.
The interview took place in the heavily guarded presidential palace in Cairo, with Mubarak’s son Gamal seated at his side, ABC said. “I never intended to run again. I never intended Gamal to be president after me,” Mubarak reportedly said.
He told Amanpour that he had felt relief after announcing in an address to the nation that he would not run again for the presidency. “I don’t care what people say about me. Right now I care about my country, I care about Egypt,” he added.
Asked by Amanpour how he was feeling, the veteran leader replied: “I am feeling strong. I would never run away. I will die on Egyptian soil.”