WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak said 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 said in an interview with ABC's Christiane Amanpour. (link.reuters.com/red87r) at his heavily guarded presidential palace in Cairo.
“If I resign today there will be chaos,” Mubarak said.
Mubarak blamed the Muslim Brotherhood, a banned political party in Egypt, for the violence that erupted 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 January 25, Mubarak had made two televised statements but otherwise had not been seen in public.
In his last appearance he said he would not seek re-election in September, a statement that did not satisfy the protesters demanding that he step down now.
Mubarak told ABC he felt relief after saying he would not run for president again, and said he that he had never intended for his son Gamal to be president after him, as had been widely believed. Gamal was in the room during the interview.
He described 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.”
Reporting by Tabassum Zakaria; Editing by David Storey