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Egypt's ElBaradei Weighs Presidential Bid


Mohammed ElBaradei is a well-known figure because of his long-career abroad with the International Atomic Energy Agency in Vienna. An enthusiastic crowd met him Saturday at Cairo airport as he returned home after a long absence.

The recently retired head of the International Atomic Energy Agency Mohammed ElBaradei met with Arab League head Amr Moussa in Cairo, apparently to discuss his political future. It is widely rumored that ElBaradei hopes to run for president of Egypt, next year.

Mohammed ElBaradei is a well-known figure because of his long-career abroad with the International Atomic Energy Agency in Vienna. An enthusiastic crowd met him Saturday at Cairo airport as he returned home after a long absence.

According to several analysts, ElBaradei's meeting with Arab League Secretary General Amr Moussa was intended to discuss the possibilities of either or both men running in next year's Egyptian presidential election.

ElBaradei says he hopes to plant the seeds of democratic reform in Egypt, amid a climate of corruption and stagnation. He has not officially indicated if he plans to run against veteran President Hosni Mubarak, nor has Mr. Mubarak said if he plans to run for a 6th term.

Mr. Mubarak was thrust into power in 1981, after the assassination of his predecessor Anwar Sadat. Many Egyptians credit him with maintaining stability amid the shifting sands of Middle East politics during his 30-year tenure.

Analyst Amr Hamzawi of the Beirut-based Carnegie Center for Peace in the Middle East says that President Mubarak does not want to leave office if there is a risk of destabilization to the country. He says attempts to groom his son Gamal to succeed him have been tentative:

"Mubarak realizes that his son, in spite of the grooming efforts by the regime, is not popular," said Hamzawi. "Based on public opinion polls, [his son] Gamal is not popular. And, he is aware of the reluctant attitude of the military establishment in endorsing his son. So, I would not rule out the possibility of Mubarak running for a 6th term in 2011," he said.

Hamzawi says the two most well-known figures in Egypt, after President Mubarak, are Mohammed ElBaradei and Amr Moussa, so it is natural to hear talk of their possible candidacies:

"People see in the case of ElBaradei, someone with an international career, professional, a diplomat, who has demonstrated great ability," he said. "Amr Moussa is popular due to what he used to do as a foreign minister. People like him and trust him. So, this gives each of them an excellent starting point if they are searching for a political career," said Hamzawi.

Several prominent newspaper editors who belong to Mr. Mubarak's ruling National Democratic Party say ElBaradei cannot or should not run for president of Egypt, because he is "out of touch" after living abroad so long, and also because he holds a foreign passport.

Amr Hamzawi says people in Egypt are doing the math and it becomes clear that ElBaradei would need the support of at least some segments of the National Democratic Party to run. No one is quite sure whether he is capable of obtaining that support, but some pundits think momentum might be building in his favor.

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