Latest News Update About:Cairo: Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak on Thursday blamed the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood for the violence unfolding in Cairo and said he would like to step down right away, but cannot because he does not want to risk plunging his nation into chaos.
Mubarak told ABC correspondent Christiane Amanpour that he was troubled by the bloody clashes that broke out on Wednesday in Tahrir Square, the center of anti-government demonstrations.
As the United States and other countries condemned increasing attacks on journalists and diplomats, Mubarak rejected the notion that government instigated the violence in the country, instead blaming the Muslim Brotherhood, an Islamist umbrella group that is banned in Egypt.
“I don’t care what people say about me,” Mubarak told ABC. “Right now I care about my country, I care about Egypt.
“I was very unhappy about yesterday. I do not want to see Egyptians fighting each other,” he said in the interview, which was conducted at the heavily guarded presidential palace where the embattled leader has been staying with his family.
Mubarak told ABC that US President Barack Obama is a very good man but bristled at the notion of an ally’s interference in internal problems. He said he told Obama: “You don’t understand the Egyptian culture and what would happen if I step down now.”
Obama has said he told Mubarak a transition must take place, and it “must be meaningful, it must be peaceful and it must begin now.”
Mubarak said he never intended to seek re-election. Nor did he intend his son, Gamal, who was believed to be groomed as Mubarak’s successor, to seek the post. He made the comment to Amanpour in his son’s presence.
The Obama administration had no comment on the interview.
Vice President Omar Suleiman, tapped as Mubarak’s vice president last Saturday, publicly announced on Thursday that Gamal Mubarak will not stand in September elections.
Mubarak, who has ruled Egypt for three decades, announced his decision to not run again last week. But that concession has not been enough for tens of thousands of protesters demanding immediate change.
Although Alexandria, Egypt’s second-largest city, was largely calm on Thursday, there are concerns about possible clashes when anti-Mubarak demonstrators mark a “Day of Farewell,” a reference to the president, after Friday prayers, according to CNN’s Nic Robertson.
His regime moved on Thursday to quell the deadly revolt, telling protesters their demands had been met and cracking down on journalists and human rights activists bearing witness to the crisis.
All day long, Mubarak’s supporters and foes clashed again to retain control of Tahrir Square, the central city plaza that has become the symbol of the 10-day Egyptian uprising. Many looked like medieval warriors, toting handcrafted shields while throwing stones and other objects.
Top government leaders vowed to hold accountable perpetrators of the bloodshed and told protesters to return home.
“I want to thank the youth for all you have done,” Suleiman said on state-run Nile TV. “You are the lights that have ignited reform in this period. Please give the (government a) chance to play its role. All of your demands have been met.”
Mubarak supporters, some believed to be paid government thugs, converged with anti-government crowds on Wednesday in a confrontation that quickly evolved into continuing mayhem in Tahrir Square. At least eight people were killed and 836 injured, including 200 wounded within one hour on Thursday morning, according to the health ministry.
Journalists covering the crisis also became targets — beaten, bloodied, harassed and detained by men, most all in some way aligned with Mubarak.
Numerous news outlets — including the BBC, ABC News, Fox News, the Washington Post and CNN — reported members of their staffs had either been attacked or arrested. Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch also reported that staffers were detained.
In several cases, news personnel were accused of being “foreign spies,” seized, whisked away, and often assaulted.
“The Egyptian government is employing a strategy of eliminating witnesses to their actions,” said Mohamed Abdel Dayem of the Committee to Protect Journalists.
Most news agencies are no longer allowed to provide live coverage of the scene at Tahrir Square, CNN’s Ivan Watson said.
New York Times columnist Nicholas D Kristof said he fears an even broader crackdown.
“Why doesn’t the government want us around? What is it that it plans to do in the next few days that it really doesn’t want cameras to be able to report on?” Kristof asked on CNN’s “Situation Room.”
The US State Department publicly condemned the crackdown on journalists, and officials told CNN they have received reports that Egypt’s Interior Ministry was involved.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called such attacks “a violation of international norms that guarantee freedom of the press, and it is unacceptable in any circumstances.”
Increasingly concerned about the potential for further violence, Clinton called on the government, political parties and others to immediately begin talks “on a peaceful and orderly transition.”
The leaders of France, Germany, Italy, Spain and Britain also urged a “rapid and peaceful transition,” and the European Union foreign affairs chief, Catherine Ashton, called on Mubarak to act “as quickly as possible.”
Egyptian Prime Minister Ahmed Shafiq apologized repeatedly for the violence. He blamed infiltrators and a “complete disappearance” of police for the human toll in the “catastrophe.”
“This group got in and some clashes happened,” Shafiq said, adding that he would look into whether the violence was part of an organized attempt to disband the opposition.
Suleiman said on Thursday that unrest has done massive economic damage to the country.
“Unfortunately, the economic losses every day, I cannot estimate but it’s going to have a huge impact in the future,” he said. “Continuing with this strike is continuing with the paralysis of the state.”
A million tourists have left Egypt in the past three days, Suleiman said.
The government froze the bank accounts of former leaders and imposed a travel ban that restricts them from exiting the country, state-run television said. The travel ban will remain in effect “until national security is restored and the authorities and monitoring bodies have undergone their investigations,” Nile TV said.
Among the leaders facing the punitive measures is Habib Adli, former minister of the interior, which oversees Egypt’s police forces.
Earlier, the sound of sustained gunfire echoed through central Cairo. The military maneuvered to separate the two sides but in the afternoon, in parts of the square, the soldiers were nowhere to be seen.
Shafiq appealed to his compatriots, especially Egypt’s youth, to show patience as the government’s leadership goes through the transitional period.
“It has great meaning not to hurt each other, hurt our reputation,” he said. “Do they want what happened in Tunisia to happen here?” Shafiq said, referring to the revolt in Tunisia that led to the ouster of the nation’s longtime strongman in January and served as inspiration for other nations in the region that have seen similar demonstrations.
Shafiq said he and Suleiman were meeting with the opposition — including protesters in Tahrir Square. He said no one would be excluded from the national dialogue, including the Muslim Brotherhood.
But spokesman Essam El-Erian said the Muslim Brotherhood will not participate in talks with the regime.
“We refuse to sit with him,” El-Erian said on Thursday, referring to Suleiman.
Other key opposition groups have also rejected meeting invitations, including the secular liberal Wafd Party and the Al-Ghad party, led by former presidential candidate Ayman Nour.