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Jumat, 19 Februari 2010

Egypt: Hundreds welcome return of ex-nuclear boss

CAIRO – Hundreds of supporters greeted former U.N. nuclear chief Mohamed ElBaradei at the airport upon return to his native Egypt on Friday, singing songs, chanting pro-reform slogans and calling on the Nobel prize winner to run for president.
ElBaradei touched down in Cairo Friday evening for the first time since leaving his post as head of the Vienna-based International Atomic Energy Association after 12 years in office. Supporters hope to use the publicity to boost speculation about his potential candidacy for 2011 elections.

Egypt has been ruled for nearly 30 years by Hosni Mubarak, who appears to be trying to set up a political dynasty by grooming his son to succeed him.

Respected worldwide and untouched by the corruption tainting much of Egypt's current regime, ElBaradei, who won the 2005 Nobel Peace Prize, could be the most credible opposition leader to emerge as this U.S.-allied country prepares for 2011 presidential elections.

And many Egyptians hope ElBaradei's international standing will make it difficult for the current government to persecute him for trying to bring reform to the country.

The crowd at the airport — made up of actors, intellectuals, opposition leaders, and regular Egyptians — broke into loud applause when word of ElBaradei's arrival spread, and then sang the Egyptian national anthem.

Many supporters carried large posters with ElBaradei's face and the word "YES!" signifying their desire to see him run for president. Bloggers and activists followed his arrival with a live stream on the Internet of what was happening on the ground at the airport.

ElBaradei tried to leave the VIP lounge at the airport shortly after his arrival, but the sheer size of the crowd blocked the exit of the lounge and prevented him. He was briefly glimpsed getting into a car and driving off, waving to his supporters through the car window.

Despite the enthusiasm his return has sparked among many Egyptians hungry for change, ElBaradei has been guarded about a potential presidential run.

In an open letter responding to an effort by young Egyptians urging him to run for president, he said he would only join the race if guaranteed that elections would be free, fully supervised by the judiciary and monitored by the international community.

He also wants the constitution amended to remove restrictions on who is eligible to run.

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