ElBaradei criticises U.S. approach to Egypt

NEW YORK Sat Feb 5, 2011 11:20pm GMT

NEW YORK (Reuters) - It would be a "major setback" if the United States were to support either Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak or Vice President Omar Suleiman to lead a transitional government, Mohamed ElBaradei said on Saturday.

ElBaradei, a veteran diplomat and leading opposition activist, was asked about reports that Washington could support Suleiman or Mubarak to lead a transitional government. "If that were true ... that would be a major setback, I can tell you that," he told Reuters in a telephone interview from Cairo.

"If things that I hear today (are true), that would come down like lead on the people who have been demonstrating," he said.

The United States signalled on Saturday that it wanted an orderly transition of power in Egypt that could see Mubarak remaining president until September, an apparent policy shift likely to anger protesters demanding he resign now.

"To hear ... that Mubarak should stay and lead the process of change, and that the process of change should essentially be led by his closest military adviser, who's not the most popular person in Egypt, without the sharing of power with civilians, it would be very, very disappointing," ElBaradei said.

The adviser he was referring to was Suleiman, a leading figure in the security apparatus.

ElBaradei said he did not think the demonstrations were running out of steam, though he worried the situation could get even bloodier.

"There is of course a little fatigue everywhere," he said, adding that there was a "hard core" of demonstrators who would not give up as long as Mubarak held onto power.

"It might not be every day but what I hear is that they might stage demonstrations every other day," ElBaradei said. "The difference is that it would become more angry and more vicious. And I do not want to see it turning from a beautiful, peaceful revolution into a bloody revolution."

ElBaradei suggested that the United States did not appear to have a clear policy on Egypt.

"It would appear that you (the United States) are just responding to who is more powerful for each day rather than a principled position, which would be for me personally disappointing and for all the people who area demonstrating," he said.

(Reporting by Louis Charbonneau; Editing by Peter Cooney and Paul Simao)