February 11th, 2011

Mohamed ElBaradei: People have to be in control

Egyptian opposition leader Mohammed ElBaradei spoke to CNN about the future of Egypt now that Mubarak has stepped down. ElBaradei says the army must share power for Egypt to have a chance at being free. A full transcript and additional videos are after the jump.

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EMBEDDABLE VIDEO: ElBaradei: People have to be in control

EMBEDDABLE VIDEO: ElBaradei: Egypt’s army must share power

EMBEDDABLE VIDEO: ElBaradei: Must not move too quickly

FULL TRANSCRIPT: Please credit all usage of the interview to CNN


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST:  One person who has no doubt been thinking about that is Mohamed ElBaradei, Nobel laureate, also a man who returned to Egypt weeks ago to take part in this movement and is talked about as a potential leader of a future Egypt down the road.

Dr.  ElBaradei, first of all, where were you when you heard the news, and what went through your mind and your heart?

DR. MOHAMED ELBARADEI, NOBEL LAUREATE/EGYPTIAN OPPOSITION LEADER (via telephone):  Well, I was at home, and, you know, I have been going through up and down since yesterday hoping to hear that piece of news, and it finally came.  It was just a sense of liberation for me, for every Egyptian.  A sense of emancipation of the whole Egyptian people, and for the first time, Egypt has a chance to be democratic, to be free, you know, to have a sense of – Egyptians can have a sense of dignity, of freedom.

So it’s amazing, it’s just like 180 degrees.  It’s something we never experienced in our lifetime.

COOPER:  We were just talking to Jim Woolsey, a former director of the CIA, who was pointing out in the past other revolutions which have started out with such exuberance sometimes get betrayed.  How does that not happen this time?  What do you see happening in the weeks ahead?

ELBARADEI:  We — I hope, you know, that we have to be — the army is that to have to of course, share power with the people.  I think, you know, with 10 million people in the street every day, I think the message was not only sent to Mubarak but the army that the people have to be in control.  And we will have to be vigilant, we will have to ensure during the transition period we would have all the guarantees for a free and fair election.  All the guarantees for becoming a democratic institutions. And I have no doubt that people after going through what they have gone through are not ready to go back or to see their revolt, revolution aborted.

COOPER: Do you know, does Vice President Suleiman still have a role at this point? Is he still vice president?

ELBARADEI: I think, as far as I know, he is gone. I think, you know, because the army took over. So the president is out and his vice president is out. And it would be the military command. And I was told that they will, as soon as possible, reach out to the — to wide sector of the Egyptian society  — we need to — and I hope that will happen as soon as possible because the army is there to help the country through the transition, to ensure stability during this period. But we need to go back to law and order, to the economy start to function. We need to go back from a country that was going down the drain to a country that is looking to the future.

COOPER: For the — originally you had wanted a three-member commission of sort of technocrats running the country in order to transition ultimately to a place where you get free and fair elections. Because Mubarak has eliminated and systemically wiped out so many democratic institutions in the country, there really are not many democratic institutions. How long a period of time do you think Egypt needs before you can have free and fair elections?

ELBARADEI: Well, I’d like — I’d like to see a year. A period of a year. I think that’s what we need at least to help get started, established. Get people to get engaged. Build an institution. We have to start from scratch and to my mind I think we need a year. We need a presidential council where we could have one military person sharing power with two civilians. We need a government of national unity and we need to build all the institutions necessary.

So we don’t need to rush. We need to make clear that, as you’ve said, that we will not be reined (ph), you know, after what we have gone through and we have learned from the experience of everybody else. I just got the call from George Papandreou, who was telling me that Greece went through the same process and he would like to brief me on the difficulties of going from a dictatorship into democracy. And so I got people from the states, you know, Washington administration, telling us that they are ready to help the Egyptian people in every way they can. So the good will is there. We just need to make it on our own and we need to take the time to do it right this time.

COOPER: There are some in the crowd who are still calling for Mubarak to be put on trial in some way. Is that something you would want to see?

ELBARADEI: I don’t want to see that right now, frankly. I mean the country needs to be united, to work towards a future. I mean we have so many challenges ahead of us and we would like to make sure that, you know, we need to build our economy. We need to have a socially cohesive society. We need to have — build democratic institutions. I think we need to, you know, we need to, you know, not to worry about retribution at this stage.

And I think as far as Mubarak personally is concerned, he should leave in dignity. I think that’s what — I know the Egyptians are angry. I know the Egyptians are feeling, you know, terrible about all the killing and the torture and — but at least Mubarak needs to go and we need to look forward. At least that’s what I think and I hope that would — I would tell people, let’s focus on the future. Let’s have a process of reconciliation at this stage. What we need is reconciliation between — and a country at peace with itself.


HALA GORANI, CNN ANCHOR: I have a quick question. Do you trust the — Mohamed ElBaradei, this is Hala Gorani at the CNN Center.

ELBARADEI: Hi, Hala. How are you?

GORANI: Hi. All right. Do you trust the military for a full year? I mean do you trust the military as an institution to usher the country sort of into a brand-new era of true democracy for Egypt? Do you think that they will be able to do that as an institution?

ELBARADEI: Well, Hala, I think, you know, we needed them and I tweeted this morning, in fact, asking for the intervention because the country was really going into a period of violence. I was afraid of a bloodbath here when people thought that Mubarak was going to resign yesterday and then he reversed his decision at the last minute and continued to hang on to power. So there was a lot of anger, a lot of frustration in the street. And it was the right thing for the army to come.

But the army, I think, heard the Egyptian people. They do not want to replace Mubarak by a military coup. That’s not a gain in the cause. And the writing was on the wall. We need to be liberated. We need to be democratic. We need social justice.

And what I understand, Hala, that the army is going to reach out as soon as possible to a wide sector of the Egyptian society as possible. I’d like that — to see that started tomorrow so we can have a sharing of power, the civilian and the military, and tell them what our demands are, what they need to do. We don’t have the experience of running the country, but we need it for ensuring any stability — stability during this period of turbulence we are going through. We need to make sure that the economy is started — running again. We need to make sure that tourists will come.

Law and order, you have heard about — you know, Anderson got beaten here. You know, it — and many others. It has been terrible for a few weeks. So we have a lot of work on our hands and I hope the army will understand that we put our trust in them, but they need to — they need to, you know, to live up to our expectation.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Well, can I just ask one question to Mohamed ElBaradei before I let him go. This is Wolf Blitzer in Washington. I’m getting a lot of e-mails and tweets from Egyptians saying what about the money Mubarak may have — may be worth, what $20 billion — as much as $70 billion. They want the money. Is that something that people should press for right now, Ambassador?

ELBARADEI: Wolf, absolutely. I mean I think — I think this is money that they owe to Egypt. I think the first thing — I mean if we are not going for trial, but definitely we are going for the money. This is the money that owed — that they owe to the Egyptian people. And as soon as I see, you know, people from the army, I think that is going to be one of the priorities.

But we have to frozen all their assets outside. I mean this is dictatorship. You know, we have suffered for 30 years and they have gotten — got away with murder. But at least the money that we need here for development should come back to the Egyptian people. It’s the money that the Egyptian people, Wolf.

BLITZER: And finally, President Obama is getting ready to address the nation in about a half an hour or so from the White House. Give me one point you really want to hear him make.

ELBARADEI: I want to hear him loud and clear that he is with the Egyptian people, that he make a commitment that they will never support an authoritarian system in Egypt any — under any circumstances. That they will put all their — whatever they can under the disposal of the Egyptian people. I heard that already from Washington, but I would like to hear President Obama say that publicly.

I think the Egyptian people need to restore confidence that Americans, the U.S., means what they say when they talk about democracy, rule of law. And as you know, it has been, you know, they have been walking very tightrope. The rope finally has been broken and we need to hear loud and clear that the Egyptian administration — that the American administration, that the American people are all with us on our march towards democracy, freedom and justice.

BLITZER: Mohamed ElBaradei, thanks very much. Congratulations to all the Egyptian people on this historic day. We will stay in obvious close touch with you, as well. We appreciate what you told us.

ELBARADEI: Thank you very much, all of you. Thanks a lot. Thanks.

BLITZER: Thank you.