CAIRO − Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak told U.S broadcaster ABC yesterday that he wants to resign but fears Egypt will sink into chaos if he does.
“If I resign today there will be chaos,” Mubarak said in the interview, which appeared on ABC’s website. Meanwhile, top U.S. congressmen issued calls for aid to the country to be cut off if he does not step down, Bloomberg news reported.
The ongoing unrest in Egypt has upset Mubarak, who has ruled for nearly 30 years.
Wednesday and yesterday saw pro-government protesters − thought to be at least partially made up of state security forces − clashing with anti-government demonstrators. At least eight people were killed and hundreds more injured.
“I was very unhappy about yesterday. I do not want to see Egyptians fighting each other,” he said.
Mubarak was unfazed by insults being hurled at him by the reformist camp, which is demanding his immediate resignation.
“I don’t care what people say about me. Right now I care about my country, I care about Egypt,” he said.
According to ABC, Mubarak is holed up in the presidential palace in Cairo with his family, heavily guarded by troops, tanks and barbed wire.
The report appeared to clear up questions about the whereabouts of his son Gamal, who was also said to be in the Cairo presidential palace during the interview.
The elder Mubarak told ABC that he never planned for his son to succeed him. Gamal had long been considered a possible heir to the presidency until the recent unrest.
ABC reported the Egyptian president wavered when asked about his attitude toward the United States, his main ally, which has been pushing for him to speed up his departure.
“You don’t understand the Egyptian culture and what would happen if I step down now,” he said he told U.S. President Barack Obama.
But in Washington, some senior members of Congress issued calls for a halt in foreign aid to Egypt, Bloomberg reported.
The United States sends Egypt about 1.5 billion dollars in aid annually, mostly support to the military.
Senator Patrick Leahy, the chairman of the panel that controls foreign aid, said he’s prepared to stop all U.S. financial assistance to Egypt unless Mubarak steps aside immediately and allows a transitional government to take over.
“If he doesn’t leave, there will not be foreign aid; I mean, it’s as simple as that,” Leahy, a Vermont Democrat, told Bloomberg Television in an interview yesterday.
U.S. money “will not go to the Mubarak administration,” Leahy said, adding, “that’s a pipeline that can easily be turned off.”
Leahy has been joined by Representative Lloyd Doggett, a Texas Democrat, in pushing to use the only degree of control lawmakers have on foreign policy matters − the power of the purse − to prod Mubarak off stage.
Doggett, a nine-term House member who previously sought to limit aid to Egypt, wrote to Obama yesterday asking him to make it clear to Mubarak and his government that, “Egypt will not receive one more cent of American money until he begins the peaceful, orderly transition to a democratically elected government today.”
The U.S. “must send the unmistakable message ... that we will not continue to waste money propping up his tyranny,” Doggett wrote.
The State Department responded that cutting off aid to Egypt was not an option.
“There is no conflict of interest between the U.S. and Egypt,” State Department spokesman Philip Crowley said. “We want to see an orderly transition to free, fair and credible elections.
President Mubarak’s public comments have been very consistent with that. But our concern is that the government has to move farther and faster than it has to date.”
Some lawmakers have been also reluctant to use the threat of ending U.S. aid as a lever to force Mubarak from power. Representative Nita Lowey of New York, the top Democrat on the House subcommittee that controls foreign assistance, hasn’t called for such a move, instead referring to Egypt as a key ally.
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