Mubarak Warns of Chaos if he Quits Now
Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak says he is fed up with with being president and would like to leave his office now but cannot for fear of chaos, ABC News reported Thursday.
Mubarak, in an interview with Christiane Amanpour at his heavily guarded presidential palace after a more than a week of protests, said he was troubled by violence at Cairo's Tahrir Square in the past three days but insisted the government was not responsible for it.
"I was very unhappy about yesterday; I do not want to see Egyptians fighting each other," Mubarak told Amanpour, according to the ABC report.
He blamed the banned Muslim Brotherhood political party for the violence.
"I don't care what people say about me," Mubarak was quoted as saying. "Right now I care about my country, I care about Egypt."
He reiterated statements he made in his Tuesday night speech to his nation that he never intended for his son, Gamal, to succeed him and he would not leave Egypt.
Asked about U.S. President Barack Obama's counsel for him to leave office swiftly, Mubarak said he told him, "You don't understand the Egyptian culture and what would happen if I step down now."
Mubarak's interview was revealed after a fresh bout of heavy gunfire and clashes erupted Thursday around dusk in the Cairo square at the center of Egypt's anti-government chaos, and new calls for a larger "Friday of Departure" emerged to mark last week's bloody "Day of Wrath" protest.
Later, Egypt's Prime Minister Ahmed Shafiq asked the interior minister not to obstruct peaceful marches on Friday. The organizers of the protest, who call themselves The Youth of the Revolution, said they hope to gather 1 million demonstrators on the streets of Cairo.
Gangs of thugs supporting Mubarak on Thursday attacked reporters, foreigners, and human rights workers and the army rounded up foreign journalists. The acts were condemned by the United States.
Heavy gunfire rang out in central Tahrir Square, where Mubarak supporters and opponents have been fighting for more than 24 hours. At least 13 people have been killed since the clashes erupted Wednesday afternoon, according to the Egyptian Health Ministry.
Bruised and bandaged protesters danced in victory Thursday night after forcing back Mubarak loyalists attacking Tahrir Square while the government increasingly spread an image that foreigners were fueling the turmoil.
An eyewitness earlier told NBC News that sniper fire could be heard in Tahrir Square, though it was not clear from which direction the shots were coming.
Security officials said a fire raged in a major supermarket outside Sheikh Zayed, a suburb of the capital, and looters were ransacking the building. Another building much closer to the square and next to a five-star hotel tower overlooking the Nile River was also burned.
Other fires erupted in the Cairo district of Shubra, north of the center, security officials said, speaking on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk to the media.
The military and the security forces appeared to be doing little to stop either the looting or the clashes around Tahrir.
Earlier Thursday, Vice President Omar Suleiman said the police had "lost some of its capabilities" and that the army — the main force on the streets of the capital — was struggling to fill the void.
The military is "shouldering duties that are new to it, enforcing the curfew and protecting citizens from thuggery and outlaws," he said. "It's a huge burden on the armed forces to carry out police role that it didn't have before."
Suleiman also promised that Mubarak's son, Gamal, would not seek to succeed his father in presidential elections in September, state TV said. The prospect that the president intends to hand power to his son has been opposed by many Egyptians.