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Egypt's VP uses state TV to blame unrest on 'foreign agendas'

Egypt's new Vice President Omar Suleiman took to state TV Thursday night to make a play for Mubarak to hang on until presidential elections in September.

By Staff writer / February 3, 2011

Egypt's Vice President Omar Suleiman talks in a pre-recorded interview on state television on Thursday in this still image taken from video.

Egyptian television via Reuters TV/Reuters

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Cairo

Omar Suleiman, looking like a president in waiting, took to Egyptian state television tonight with dark hints of conspiracies behind the democracy protests, a dismissal of demands for immediate political reform, and words of loyalty and respect for President Hosni Mubarak.

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Mr. Suleiman – Egypt’s long-standing foreign intelligence chief until this past week, when he was named Egypt’s first vice president since Mr. Mubarak took power in 1981 – made a play for Mubarak to hang on until presidential elections in September, which the 82-year-old leader has promised not to run in.

"Standing down is an alien philosophy for the Egyptian people... Egyptians aren’t the ones asking for this. We [Egyptians] respect Hosni Mubarak, our father," he said in an interview with government TV. “We can talk about complete constitutional reform when a new president comes on the scene. We have no time to discuss it now."

But Egypt’s current electoral laws and Constitution are rigged against outsiders and strongly favor the ruling National Democratic Party (NDP).

Suleiman himself is among the few Egyptians who fulfill the current candidacy criteria. (Among other things, a candidate must belong to a legal party that won at least 3 percent of parliamentary seats in the last election. The fraudulent parliamentary election last November gave the NDP about 95 percent of the seats and the Muslim Brotherhood – Egypt's most organized opposition movement – remains banned.)

Suleiman alluded to the chance that the requirements could be eased and some reforms could happen before an election, but stressed that Egypt “has to put restrictions on who can run for president.”

Protesters reject Suleiman's comments

Egypt’s democracy protesters, many defying a curfew in Tahrir Square in central Cairo tonight, immediately dismissed his comments, particularly his claim that their demands have been met and his call to “end your sit-in."

“When he said that a president stepping down is alien to us, people in Tahrir were almost fainting,” says Khaled Abol Naga, an Egyptian film star who’s spent most of the past few days with demonstrators at Tahrir calling for Mubarak’s downfall.

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