WASHINGTON, Feb 4 – Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak has said in a US television interview that he wants to leave office, but fears there will be chaos if he resigns now, while his vice president insisted no government supporters killed protesters in the unrest.
The beleaguered Egyptian leader said he was "fed up with being president and would like to leave office now, but cannot… for fear that the country would sink into chaos," ABC News\’ Christiane Amanpour said, after interviewing Mubarak.
His newly sworn-in Vice President Omar Suleiman meanwhile, in a separate interview with Amanpour, denied that pro-government elements killed protesters in the violent unrest, insisting: "they behaved very well."
Asked about shooting into the crowds of protesters that have gathered at Cairo\’s Tahrir Square, Suleiman replied, in English: "No. Nobody being killed by rifles or by snipers. No way."
Mubarak, who has vowed not to stand in September elections, has come under increasing pressure from the United States and the West to step down promptly amid 10 days of violent protests against his 30-year rule.
But he said he had told US President Barack Obama "you don\’t understand the Egyptian culture and what would happen if I step down now."
Mubarak also said his government was not responsible for the violence in Cairo\’s Tahrir Square and blamed the opposition Muslim Brotherhood.
Pitched battles on Wednesday between Mubarak supporters and regime opponents left at least five people dead and 836 injured.
"I was very unhappy about yesterday. I do not want to see Egyptians fighting each other," Amanpour quoted Mubarak as saying in the 30-minute interview.
"He told me that he is troubled by the violence we have seen in Tahrir Square over the last few days but that his government is not responsible for it," Amanpour said in her account of the interview.
For his part, Suleiman vowed that Egyptian forces would "not use any violence against" the protesters.
"But we will ask them to go home. And we will ask their parents to ask them to come home," he said.
The interviews took place in reception rooms in the heavily guarded presidential palace in Cairo, with Mubarak\’s son Gamal seated at his side, ABC said.
"I never intended to run again. I never intended Gamal to be president after me," Mubarak reportedly said.
He told Amanpour that he had felt relief after announcing in an address to the nation on Friday that he would not run again for the presidency.
"I don\’t care what people say about me. Right now I care about my country, I care about Egypt," he added.
Asked by Amanpour how he was feeling, the veteran leader replied: "I am feeling strong. I would never run away. I will die on Egyptian soil."
Citing officials in President Barack Obama\’s administration, the New York Times late on Thursday said the United States was discussing a plan with Egyptian officials for President Hosni Mubarak to quit immediately and turn power over to a transitional government.
The report, which cited and Arab diplomats, said the plan for an interim government headed by Suleiman, aimed at getting backing from the Egyptian military.
Contacted by AFP, White House spokesman Tommy Vietor did not confirm the report but said: "The president has said that now is the time to begin a peaceful, orderly and meaningful transition, with credible, inclusive negotiations.