Mubarak must go, protests to intensify: ElBaradei

29th January 2011, Comments 0 comments

Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak "must go," top dissident Mohamed ElBaradei told France 24 television on Saturday from Cairo, vowing that protests against his rule would intensify.

"President Mubarak did not understand the message of the Egyptian people," ElBaradei said. "His speech was totally disappointing. The protests will continue with even more intensity until the Mubarak regime falls."

The Nobel laureate and former chief of the UN nuclear watchdog returned to Cairo from Vienna in time to join massive protests on Friday across Egypt that shook the world's most populous Arab nation and prompted Mubarak in a speech early on Saturday to promise reforms.

"I will go back into the streets today (Saturday) with my colleagues to contribute to bringing change... and to tell President Mubarak that he must go," ElBaradei said.

"When the regime behaves so lowly, and opens fire with a water cannon on someone who has received the Nobel prize, it indicates the beginning of the end for the regime and it must go," he added.

During Friday's protests, police used tear gas, water cannons and rubber-coated bullets against thousands of demonstrators who rampaged through the streets of Cairo.

Reports said ElBaradei was drenched by a water cannon and prevented by police from leaving a mosque in which he took shelter.

In Saturday's television interview, the Nobel laureate skirted questions about reports that he had been placed under house arrest but inferred these were not true.

He gave the interview as thousands of anti-regime demonstrators poured onto Cairo's streets demanding Mubarak's ouster.

Angry citizens streamed into Tahrir square, a focal point for the protests and street battles that have raged since Tuesday and in which at least 35 people have died, chanting: "Mubarak out!" as troops looked on.

Mubarak, 82, addressed the nation overnight, sacking the government and vowing economic and political reforms in the world's most populous Arab nation but showing no sign of easing his decades-old grip on power.

"I have asked the government to resign and tomorrow there will be a new government," a stony-faced Mubarak said amid the worst protests since 1977 bread riots.

"We will not backtrack on reforms. We will continue with new steps which will ensure the independence of the judiciary and its rulings, and more freedom for citizens," he said.

Protesters who have been demanding that Mubarak step down, as well as an end to endemic state corruption and police brutality that have become systematic under his rule, dismissed his speech as too little, too late.

Before leaving Vienna on Thursday, ElBaradei said he was ready to "lead the transition" in Egypt if asked.

On arrival later in Cairo, he said he had come "to participate with the Egyptian people."

"It is a critical time in the life of Egypt," he said. "The desire for change must be respected. The regime must not use violence in the demonstrations."

© 2011 AFP

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