Egypt unrest: Hosni Mubarak warns of chaos if he quits

The BBC's Jeremy Bowen meets protesters in Tahrir Square

Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak has said he would like to resign immediately but fears the country would descend into chaos if he did so.

In his first interview since anti-government protests began, he told ABC News he was "fed up" with power.

It came as Cairo saw another day of violence with clashes between the president's opponents and supporters.

Mr Mubarak warned that the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood party would fill any power vacuum if he stepped down.

The BBC's Paul Adams says this is a version of the narrative the president has used in the past to explain 30 years of political suppression aimed, primarily, at the Brotherhood.

Journalists beaten

Tens of thousands of protesters remain in central Cairo after dark, with some involved in a running battle with government supporters who were attacking them.

Stones have been thrown on both sides, and there has been some gunfire.

The army, which was trying to separate the two sides, appears to have failed to control the crowds.

Egypt's Health Minister Ahmed Samih Farid said that eight people had died in the fighting, which began on Wednesday, and 890 were injured, nine of them critically.

Another person was later reported killed in clashes on Abdel Monem Riyad Square, also in central Cairo. Many more were injured.

Analysis

The interview is an insight into the defiant mood of Egypt's embattled leader. He insists President Obama has not asked him to leave office immediately and expresses a degree of remorse about the violence on the streets of Cairo.

But he warns if he leaves now, the Muslim Brotherhood will exploit the ensuing chaos.

At a time when Western officials, including some here in Washington, are sounding sanguine about the prospects of the Brotherhood playing a part in Egypt's political transition, President Mubarak appears to be clutching at straws of his own making.

He also says he is fed up with being president - after 62 years of public service he has had enough. For all his defiance, this seems to be a man who knows his days on the world stage are coming to an end. It is still, as ever, a question of precisely when.

The BBC's Khaled Ezzelarab in Cairo says the shift in focus from Tahrir Square to Abdel Monem Riyad Square appears to indicate a strategic advance for the anti-Mubarak protesters, who have managed to hold their ground in Tahrir and move the clashes elsewhere.

Foreign journalists reporting for several organisations were attacked, with reports of Mubarak supporters said to have stormed a number of Cairo hotels.

Some journalists were beaten with sticks and had their equipment smashed.

The New York Times said that two reporters had been released after being detained overnight on Thursday.

The attacks have drawn condemnation from Britain, France, Germany, Italy and Spain, as well as UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon.

"Let me be totally clear: this is outrageous and totally unacceptable, it must stop now," Mr Ban said.

Later in the evening, a number of political activists were arrested by military police, as well as representatives of Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International.

Clutching at straws

Speaking to ABC's Christiane Amanpour, Mr Mubarak denied his administration was behind the violence of the last two days, but said it had troubled him.

"I was very unhappy about yesterday. I do not want to see Egyptians fighting each other," he said.

He said the Muslim Brotherhood was behind the violence.

Mr Mubarak vowed never to leave Egypt

ABC's Christiane Amanpour: "I had a 30 minute meeting with President Mubarak"

Mr Mubarak vowed never to leave Egypt, saying: "I would never run away from this country. I will die on this soil."

He said it was never his intention to have his son Gamal follow him into office.

Asked how he himself was feeling, he said: "I am feeling strong. I would never run away. I will die on Egyptian soil."

Meanwhile US state department spokesman Philip Crowley has urged Mr Mubarak to move "farther and faster" with the transition.

Earlier Mr Mubarak's deputy, Omar Suleiman, called for time to carry out political reforms before presidential elections in September.

He warned there would be a political vacuum if a proper period of transition was not allowed.

Deep split

In a separate development, the public prosecutor issued a travel ban on three former ministers and a senior member of the ruling party, among them the unpopular former Interior Minister Habib al-Adly.

Correspondents say these legal measures against some of the most powerful people in the country are confirmation of a deep split within the ruling elite.

The public prosecutor's statement said other officials were covered by the ban, which would last "until national security is restored and the authorities and monitoring bodies have undergone their investigations".

Unrest has left about 300 people dead across the country over the past 10 days, according to UN estimates.

If Mr Mubarak does not step down, demonstrators have planned to march on the presidential palace on Friday.

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