Egypt opposition leader may not run for president

Egyptian pro-democracy campaigner Mohamed ElBaradei said in a televised interview aired Sunday he is not sure he will run for president, because there has not been not enough debate about the future of the country.

ElBaradei, the former head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, is a favorite of some leaders of the uprising that unseated President Hosni Mubarak, but polls show he has little electoral support. He inspired many of the protesters who took part in the 18-day uprising that forced President Hosni Mubarak to step down in February.

"I don't want to run for president just to be president. I want to reform this country," he said. "I want to run. But my red line is I don't want to be part of a stage setting," a reform-like cover for continuing the traditional way of running the country.

The Mubarak regime was faulted for corruption, widespread human rights abuses, cronyism and poor handling of the nation's economy.

ElBaradei was speaking on a TV program aired on the private ONTV station Sunday. He announced in March on the same station that he would run for president only if a real democratic system is in place.

In the interview, he was critical of the way the military rulers have managed the transition period. "We are in a haphazard situation when it comes to the political future of Egypt," he complained.

He said many decisions taken by the military were not discussed enough in advance and other decisions were made too late, such as measures to remove security officers accused of abuses, to keep members of the Mubarak regime from hiding the funds they allegedly took illicitly. He said it remains "an enigma" why the military has not been able to restore security so far.

He said the military issued decrees directing political life, such the law governing political parties and parliament. He criticized lack of debate before a referendum held in March over the framework of a new constitution.

ElBaradei is campaigning for a new constitution to be drafted before parliamentary elections. The voting is set for September, but many activists say that is too soon to allow proper organization and campaigning.

According to the plan endorsed by the military, the new parliament would pick a committee to draft the constitution. ElBaradei and a growing number of public figures argue that drafting a constitution should be the basis for a new political system.

It is not too late to have a dialogue, he said.

"It is an insult to say that Egyptians are not qualified for democracy," he said. "We are taking baby steps toward democracy ... We are learning every day."

ElBaradei said he has not suspended his political activities but has focused on drafting a "Bill of Rights" and a political program with the economy as a priority.