WASHINGTON Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak said on Thursday that if he stepped down now after days of massive street protests, Egypt would fall into chaos and the Muslim Brotherhood opposition group would take control.
"I am fed up. After 62 years in public service, I have had enough. I want to go," Mubarak, 82, said in an interview with ABC's Christiane Amanpour at his heavily guarded presidential palace in Cairo. (link.reuters.com/red87r)
"If I resign now there will be chaos," he said. "And I'm afraid the Muslim Brotherhood will take over."
Mubarak blamed the Muslim Brotherhood, a banned political party in Egypt, for the violence that erupted on Wednesday during protests in Cairo's central Tahrir Square and said his government was not responsible for it.
"I was very unhappy about yesterday. I do not want to see Egyptians fighting each other," Mubarak told ABC.
Protesters are blaming Mubarak supporters for firing at the crowd and going to the square with knives and sticks.
Mubarak's comments about the Muslim Brotherhood came on a day when his new, hand-picked vice president, Omar Suleiman, said the Islamist group had been invited to meet with the new government as part of a national dialogue with all parties.
Asked how he felt about people shouting insults and wanting him gone, Mubarak replied: "I don't care what people say about me. Right now I care about my country, I care about Egypt."
Since the protests began on Jan. 25, Mubarak has made two televised statements but otherwise has not been seen in public.
In his latest appearance, he said on Tuesday that he would serve out his term but not seek re-election in September, a statement that did not satisfy the protesters demanding his 30-year rule end immediately.
Mubarak said when he steps down he was not going to flee the country. He told ABC that he was not the kind of person to run. "I will die on Egyptian soil," he said.
Mubarak told ABC he felt relief after saying he would not run for president again, and said he had never intended for his son Gamal to be president after him, as had been widely believed. Gamal Mubarak was in the room during the interview.
Mubarak described U.S. President Barack Obama as a very good man, but wavered when asked if he felt that the United States had betrayed him, ABC said. Obama has said Mubarak should start the process of a peaceful transition immediately.
Mubarak said he had told Obama: "You don't understand the Egyptian culture and what would happen if I step down now."
Amanpour said she had gone to the Presidential Palace for a previously arranged interview with Suleiman, and asked if she could see Mubarak.
"Within what seemed like just minutes, I was whisked into a reception room where he was waiting," Amanpour wrote in a blog post. "He greeted me warmly, and we started to talk. He looked tired, but well."
Amanpour said Mubarak consented when she asked afterward whether she could report their conversation.
(Reporting by Tabassum Zakaria; editing by Philip Barbara)