Khamis, 10 Mac 2011

The Star Online: World Updates

The Star Online: World Updates

ElBaradei says he'll run for Egyptian president

Posted: 09 Mar 2011 07:30 PM PST

CAIRO (Reuters) - Reformist Mohamed ElBaradei announced on Wednesday he would run in Egypt's presidential election this year and called for a completely new constitution instead of temporary amendments.

Egyptian opposition leader Mohamed ElBaradei speaks to protesters at Tahrir Square in Cairo January 30, 2011. (REUTERS/Asmaa Waguih/Files)

It was the first time that ElBaradei, awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2005, had explicitly announced he would be a candidate for president after President Hosni Mubarak was overthrown by a popular uprising last month.

Post-Mubarak presidential and parliamentary elections are being watched for signs of how democratic the country's political life will be after three decades of state oppression which created a toothless opposition and stifled political activity, political analysts say.

"When the door of presidential nominations opens, I intend to nominate myself," ElBaradei said on his first live talk show on the privately-owned ONTV channel.

He also said he would oppose constitutional amendments being put to a referendum on March 19, calling for a new constitution instead.

"I will not vote for these constitutional amendments. I will vote against these amendments."

A leading figure in the reform movement who has been backed by youth groups since his return to Egypt in 2010, ElBaradei was preceded by veteran diplomat and long-time friend Amr Moussa who was the first prominent figure to declare he would run for president.

ElBaradei, 68, the former head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, said a brief but moving encounter with a man from a slum area years ago who had to walk some distance to fetch clean water inspired him to pursue ways to serve his country.

"If I am elected, and God allows me to be elected, my first press conference will be in a slum area," ElBaradei said.

"I will apologise on behalf of all Egyptians to the 40 percent of the population living below the poverty line for the neglect they have seen, and for not having the homes and the lives they deserve."


The interview was ElBaradei's first live broadcast since a popular uprising began in Egypt on Jan. 25 and was the first salvo in his presidential campaign.

"I am Egyptian, I grew up in Egypt, I began work at the Foreign Ministry and have worked abroad and have experience in many issues. I try to transfer this experience to my country which I would loathe to see lagging behind," he said.

The Supreme Council of the Armed Forces took power after Mubarak was ousted and said it would hold a parliamentary election in June followed by a presidential ballot six weeks later.

ElBaradei said the path to change in Egypt must begin with a new constitution, calling on the military to delay this month's referendum or cancel it.

"The current constitution fell. It would be an insult to the revolution if we decided to retrieve this constitution," he said, calling instead for "a new constitution, a presidential vote and then a parliamentary vote".

"We are going in the opposite direction," he added, saying the army's plan to hold the parliamentary vote in two months' time, before a new constitution was drawn up, would exclude most Egyptians from the voting process.

Critics have said the army's timetable is too soon for parties to organise and gives an advantage to remnants of Mubarak's National Democratic Party and the Muslim Brotherhood.

"If we go ahead with these amendments this means we would have a parliamentary election within two months where 80 percent of Egyptians, the silent majority, would not have a chance to participate in a real parliamentary process," ElBaradei said.

"It would only be a parliament of the remnants of the National Democratic Party and the Muslim Brotherhood".

(Additional reporting by Dina Zayed; Writing by Marwa Awad; Editing by Andrew Dobbie )

Copyright © 2011 Reuters

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U.S. arrests man in Martin Luther King day bomb plot

Posted: 09 Mar 2011 06:59 PM PST

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A Washington state man was arrested and charged with attempting to place a bomb along the parade route of a Martin Luther King Jr. holiday celebration in Spokane, the U.S. Justice Department said on Wednesday.

"I can say that it was a viable device, it was planted with the aim of injuring or killing people and we were fortunate that it did not go off and that people were in fact not killed. We were just lucky in that regard," Attorney General Eric Holder told a news conference on an unrelated matter.

Kevin William Harpham, 36, was charged with two counts of attempting to put a bomb along the planned parade route on Jan. 17, according to documents filed in federal court.

Authorities said the device, if it had gone off, could have caused multiple deaths.

Harpham appeared briefly in federal court in Spokane on Wednesday, and is being held in the Spokane County Jail until an arraignment, tentatively scheduled for March 23, authorities told Reuters. A grand jury is set to meet to consider the charges against Harpham on March 22.

A federal law enforcement official said authorities were investigating whether the suspect, who lived in Colville, Washington, had ties to white supremacists.

Officials from the Southern Poverty Law Center, an Alabama-based civil rights group, said Harpham had been a member of the neo-Nazi National Alliance in late 2004 and that he was in the U.S. military from 1996 to 1997.

A spokesman for Joint Base Lewis-McChord, the recently merged U.S. Army/Air Force base in Washington state, confirmed that Harpham served at the former Fort Lewis Army base from 1996 to early 1999 as a fire support specialist.

The MLK day parade, on the national holiday honoring the slain African-American civil rights leader and attended by about 1,500 people, was quickly rerouted while the city's bomb disposal unit was summoned and safely "neutralized the device," the FBI said at the time.

An unattended backpack, with wires visible, was discovered on a downtown bench by three city workers who notified police about 30 minutes before the parade was scheduled to begin, the FBI said. The device in the backpack was largely concealed by two T-shirts packed inside.

"I think the FBI has done really great work in cracking that case along with their state and local counterparts," Holder said in confirming the arrest.

Chemical analysis of the homemade bomb remains "ongoing," FBI supervisory resident agent Frank Harrill told Reuters, declining to confirm reports that the bomb contained a white powder anticoagulant chemical similar to rat poison.

One count charges the suspect with attempting to use a weapon of mass destruction, an improvised explosive device, along the planned parade route. That charge carries a maximum penalty of life in prison.

The other count charges Harpham with illegally possessing an explosive device, which carries up to 10 years in prison.

U.S. Attorney Michael Ormsby told Reuters that the investigation is continuing, but no more arrests were expected on Wednesday.

(Reporting by James Vicini and Jeremy Pelofsky in Washington and Laura Myers and Bill Rigby in Seattle, Editing by Peter Cooney and Eric Walsh)

Copyright © 2011 Reuters

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