Opposition Leader Mohamed ElBaradei Returns to Egypt

The return of Mohamed ElBaradei, the former head of the U.N. nuclear regulatory agency who now leads of a group seeking constitutional reforms, could further energize protesters opposed to the regime of President Hosni Mubarak.

Reporting from Cairo – Opposition leader Mohamed ElBaradei, the Nobel Peace Prize laureate who formerly headed the U.N. nuclear regulatory agency, returned to Egypt on Thursday in a move certain to increase political pressure on President Hosni Mubarak during a wave of protests that have gripped the nation.

ElBaradei’s presence could further energize protesters and opposition groups who for months have been urging him to take his National Front for Change to the streets. The bespectacled 68-year-old lawyer has been reluctant to join demonstrations in the past, but he indicated he would attend rallies scheduled for Friday.

“I will participate,” said ElBaradei after leaving his home in Vienna to fly to Egypt. “I wish we did not have to go out on the streets to press the regime to act.”
In an article this week in Newsweek titled “The Return of the Challenger,” ElBaradei wrote: “I am going back to Cairo, and back onto the streets because, really, there is no choice. So far, the regime does not seem to have gotten that message.”

Such a move would be a major provocation, pitting an internationally respected negotiator against an authoritarian government long criticized for political repression and police brutality. Mubarak’s ruling party was concerned one year ago when ElBaradei started his National Front campaign for constitutional reforms. But, months later, party officials regarded him as too timid to threaten the government.

ElBaradei, returning as protesters clashed with police for a third day, told Reuters in Vienna that Mubarak “has served the country for about 30 years and it is about time for him to retire.”

This article “Opposition Leader Mohamed ElBaradei Returns to Egypt” originally appeared at The Los Angeles Times.

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