CAIRO (Reuters) - Arab League chief and former Egyptian Foreign Minister Amr Moussa did not rule out seeking the country’s presidency in an interview that is likely to fuel speculation about who could succeed President Hosni Mubarak.
Moussa, aged 73 and praised by many Egyptians and Arabs for criticism of both Israel and past U.S. Middle East policies, told Shorouk the next leader could also be Mubarak’s politician son, Gamal Mubarak, 45.
Moussa’s comments, albeit vague, will add to speculation with the 2011 presidential election nearing.
Mubarak, 81, in power since 1981, has not said if he will run again. The most common view is that he is grooming his son although both deny this.
“It is the right of all citizens with the ability and competency to aspire to a position to participate in serving the homeland, including the top position of president of the republic,” Moussa said in interview, excerpts of which were sent to Reuters.
He said the rights and obligations of all citizens “hold true for me, for you and also for Gamal Mubarak.”
Regarding calls the newspaper said had been made in the media and websites for him to run for president, Moussa said: “The confidence expressed by several citizens when they talk about my nomination makes me very proud, and I consider it a message that has without doubt reached me.”
“But taking a decision on this issue requires several considerations...and we are somehow still far from the time for taking any decision on this matter,” he said.
He also said: “I don’t have specific thinking on the nomination for the presidency.”
Moussa’s chief of staff, Hesham Youssef, confirmed the quotes published by Shorouk were accurate.
Moussa has won the admiration of many ordinary Arabs for his stand on issues such as the Palestinian-Israeli conflict and Iraq, notably warning Washington it would open the “gates of hell” if the 2003 invasion of Iraq went ahead.
In the 2005 presidential race, one Egyptian group launched a petition calling for Moussa to run.
While analysts say the most likely scenario is that Gamal Mubarak will take over, they say it is not a certainty partly because he may not have enough influence. Unlike all three presidents since 1952, he does not have a military background.
However, he does have a top policy post in the ruling National Democratic Party and his allies in the cabinet have implemented a raft of economic reforms that have lifted growth rates and been broadly praised by foreign investors.
The ruling party holds its annual gathering at the end of October but Prime Minister Ahmed Nazif said last month it was not expected to pick a presidential candidate then.
Political analysts say the rules governing the presidential race make it almost impossible for the ruling party’s candidate to face a serious challenger.
Prominent opposition leader and Mubarak’s main rival in the 2005 race, Ayman Nour, launched a campaign this month aimed at blocking any succession by the president’s son.
Writing by Edmund Blair