EGYPT: Mubarak warns opposition against 'gambling' with Egypt's stability
While he welcomed spirited political debate over Egypt's future, President Hosni Mubarak warned a new and growing opposition movement not to jeopardize the nation's stability.
Addressing Egyptians for the first time since the removal of his gallbladder of his gallbladder in Germany last month, the 81-year-old leader stressed Saturday that rising political awareness was a sign of what he called unprecedented freedom of opinion, expression and the press.
"I sincerely welcome the interplay in the society as long as it abides by laws and the constitution and is intended to realize the interest of Egypt," Mubarak said in a televised speech on the 28th memory of Israel's complete withdrawal from the Sinai Peninsula. "This interaction should not turn into a conflict or a confrontation and we have to be aware of such a turn."
Egypt's political climate -- suffering from stagnation and repression for more than three decades -- was brought to life following the recent return of potential presidential candidate Mohamed ElBaradei, the former head of the U.N.'s nuclear watchdog agency.
The Noble Peace Prize laureate formed the National Front for Change to gather opposition movements around forcing constitutional reforms to make it easier for independent candidates to challenge the ruling National Democratic Party's nominee in the 2011 presidential elections.
Inspired by ElBaradei's efforts, hundreds of activists have taken his demands to the streets through demonstrations on April 6 and April 13. The earlier protest resulted in police beatings and arrest of about 90 demonstrators. The Egyptian government has long been criticized by human rights groups for torture and crushing political dissent.
Mubarak pledged on Saturday that parliamentary elections in October and the 2011 presidential elections would be fair. "I wish to reaffirm my commitment to the integrity of these elections, and I welcome every national and sincere effort that proposes a view or solutions to the issues and problems of our nation, and does not gamble with its security, stability and future," he said.
Mubarak, who has been ruling Egypt since 1981, is yet to reveal whether he will seek reelection. Many believe he will step aside and back his son, Gamal, a leading member of the NDP.
-- Amro Hassan in Cairo
Photo: President Hosni Mubarak speaking on Egyptian TV on Saturday. Credit: AFP