UNITED NATIONS Mohamed ElBaradei, a Nobel Peace Prize laureate and outgoing head of the U.N. nuclear watchdog, said in a television interview he would not rule out running for the presidency of his native Egypt.
ElBaradei said one should "never say never" but made clear there would have to be "built-in guarantees" that the election, scheduled for 2011, would be run properly before he would agree to run.
"I will only consider it if there is a free and fair election and that is a question mark still in Egypt," ElBaradei said in an interview with CNN broadcast on Thursday.
The 67-year-old Egyptian diplomat and lawyer steps down at the end of November as director-general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, a high-profile U.N. agency based in Vienna that he has headed for 12 years.
ElBaradei and the IAEA were joint recipients of the Nobel Peace Prize in 2005 for their efforts to prevent nuclear proliferation and to promote the safe use of nuclear energy.
Analysts say one of the main reasons for the award was his firm public opposition to former U.S. President George W. Bush's decision to invade Iraq in March 2003.
The son of current Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, 81, is tipped as the most likely candidate to lead U.S. ally Egypt after his father leaves office, although father and son have denied such plans. Gamal Mubarak, 45, is a top official in the ruling National Democratic Party.
Gamal Mubarak is not the only potential successor to his father, who has been in office since 1981 and would be 89 if he were to win and serve out a sixth six-year term. Analysts say intelligence chief Omar Suleiman may also be a contender.
(Reporting by Louis Charbonneau; Editing by Peter Cooney)