Transition in Egypt ElBaradei Wants to Negotiate with the Army

The Egyptian demonstrators want a quick transition of power -- and there are already plans afoot for what happens after Mubarak. Leading opposition figure Mohamed ElBaradei told SPIEGEL that he wants to hold talks with the army, while the deputy head of the Muslim Brotherhood explained that they reject violence.

AP

The seeds of change are sprouting in Egypt - and the opposition is continuing to push for mass protests. Egyptian Nobel Prize laureate and opposition politician Mohamed ElBaradei says he wants to continue to mobilize protests against President Hosni Mubarak as an "agent of change."

In an interview with SPIEGEL, ElBaradei called for Mubarak's immediate resignation. "Mubarak must go, not at some point, but now," the former head of the International Atomic Energy Agency told SPIEGEL. He said he was certain "some Arab country would take him in. I have heard from Bahrain."

Media reports suggest that considerations have also been made to send Mubarak to Germany. The New York Times reported on Saturday that Egyptian Vice President Omar Suleiman and other top military leaders are considering flying Mubarak to Germany for a medical checkup. This is apparently a part of a leadership plan to find a dignified way out of the crisis for Mubarak, according to the paper. According to the plan, Mubarak would fly to Germany for his annual medical leave, only this time he would remain for an extended check-up. Another variant would see the president retreating to his holiday home in the Red Sea resort Sharm el Sheik, the New York Times wrote, citing unnamed US government sources. The goal is to provide a graceful exit for Mubarak that would see him leaving the presidential palace without being immediately stripped of the presidency.

'The Country Is Falling Apart'

ElBaradei is now calling for new leadership in Egypt and he says he is prepared to negotiate with the military. "The longer things continue with Mubarak, the clearer it becomes: The country is imploding both politically and economically," he told SPIEGEL. "I would prefer to speak to the army leadership soon," the opposition politician said, to "explore" how we could achieve a peaceful transition without bloodshed.

ElBaradei also warned the Israeli government that it must accept the end of the Mubarak regime. "The Israelis should understand that it is in their long-term interest to have a democratic Egypt as a neighbor." He also said it would be "prudent" for the Israelis to "acknowledge the legitimate interests of the Palestinians and to grant them their own state" for the sake of good relations with Cairo.

Meanwhile, the deputy head of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, Rashad al-Bayoumi, is calling for a transition government that includes all the opposition groups, new elections and the release of all political prisoners. "After 30 years of repression, corruption and dictatorship, we are now definitively at a crossroads," Bayoumi said in a SPIEGEL interview. "The revolution will continue until our demands have been fulfilled." He said the Muslim Brotherhood would also respect those with different religious beliefs. "Those are our principles," he said. "We are not the devil," he said, claiming the government had created a false image of the group "Our religion is not a diabolical religion," he added.

Bayoumi said he didn't know how many members the Muslim Brotherhood currently has in Egypt. "We don't count," he said. "The government says we are 3 million - all I know is that we are everywhere." The Muslim Brotherhood has remained deliberately reserved at the protests. "We don't want the revolution to be portrayed as the revolution of the Muslim Brotherhood," he said. "This is a popular revolt of all Egyptians." He said the government alone is responsible for the deaths and injuries that have occurred during the protests. "I swear to you, the Muslim Brotherhood has not called for violence and we will not do that."

In Germany, the government has offered cautious signs of support for the opposition. Chancellor Angela Merkel reiterated the European Union's willingness to aid a transformation in North Africa. "There will be changes in Egypt," she said at the annual Munich Security Conference. But this transformation must be formed, she said, and Europe is prepared to support this process through a new partnership.

Merkel also reiterated the "absolute necessity" of protecting the civil rights of the Egyptian people. She expressed her relief that the protests are again proceeding largely peacefully.

Check back on Monday for the full English-language versions of the interviews with Mohamed ElBaradei and Rashad al-Bayoumi.

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