, who has emerged as one of the leading opponents of the regime of President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt, said Sunday that President Obama needed to press Mubarak to give up power and that failing to take more forceful action to make that happen will cost the United States "whatever is left" of its credibility.
"People expected the U.S. to be on the side of the people ... and to let go of a dictator, " ElBaradei said on ABC's "This Week."
ElBaradei said the response of Mubarak so far to the protests and calls for reform by the United States "doesn't even begin to address people's concerns. Peoples' concerns right now is Mubarak has to go, immediately. The first step, if we need to get out of this mess -- and it's total mess, security is not there, it's a total chaos situation right now -- first step, he has to go."
Later on Sunday, ElBaradei joined thousands of demonstrators gathered in Cairo's central square. "You are the owners of this revolution," he told the crowd. "You are the future. Our essential demand is the departure of the regime and the beginning of a new Egypt in which each Egyptian lives in virtue, freedom and dignity."
ElBaradei said, in his interview with ABC, that Obama's public statement
, calling on Mubarak to undertake reforms, fell short of what was needed. "To ask a dictator to implement democratic measures after 30 years in power is an oxymoron," he said.
"They need to side with the people," ElBaradei said. "They need to go for ... transition, smooth transition, through a government of national salvation. This is only way out."
ElBaradei is the former head of the International Atomic Energy Agency and a Nobel Prize winner. He returned to Egypt after the protests erupted
against the government to join the opposition. He was placed under house arrest Friday afternoon.
Speaking on the CNN's foreign affairs program "GPS," ElBaradei called Mubarak's response to the protests "a hopeless desperate attempt ... to stay in power."
Mubarak appeared on television Friday, promising reform, firing his cabinet
and naming a vice president
for the first time since he took power. But at the same time, he said he needed to protect the stability of the country and has deployed troops in the streets and cut off cell phone access, and access to the Internet.
Appearing on the Sunday news shows, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said the United States was not satisfied with steps taken by Mubarak so far, but she carefully finessed questions about whether the administration believed Mubarak needed to step down.
However, Clinton also put more distance between the administration and Mubarak by saying what was most important was not who was in power, but that Egypt become a true democracy.
"It's not a question of who retains power," she said on ABC. "That should not be the issue. It's how are we going to respond to the legitimate needs and grievances expressed by the Egyptian people and chart a new path."
Asked on "Fox News Sunday" whether the "Obama administration still backs Mubarak as the legitimate president of Egypt," Clinton said: "We have been very clear that we want to see a transition to democracy. And we want to see the kind of steps taken that will bring that about. We also want to see an orderly transition."
She added: "What President Obama and I have been doing is sending a very clear message about where the United States stands. We want to see an orderly transition to a democratic government, to economic reforms, exactly what the protesters are seeking."
When Clinton was asked on CBS' "Face the Nation" whether reform was possible if Mubarak stays in office, she said: "I'm not going to speculate. What we are focused on now is a transition that will meet the needs of the Egyptian people and that will truly establish democracy, not just for one election and then no more elections after that or not for radicals, extremists, violent elements to take over."
And on NBC's "Meet the Press," when asked whether she would like to see Mubarak stay in power, Clinton said to host David Gregory: "You keep trying to put words in my mouth. I've never said that, I don't intend to say that. I want the Egyptian people to have the chance to chart a new future. It needs to be an orderly, peaceful transition to real democracy. Not faux democracy, like the elections we saw in Iran two years ago where you have one election 30 years ago and then the people just keep staying in power and become less and less responsive to their people."
The New York Times reported Sunday
that the White House "has refrained from calling publicly for Mr. Mubarak to step down ... because it worried about losing its leverage over him and about contributing to a political vacuum in Egypt, which could be filled by extremist, anti-American forces."
However, ElBaradei said on CNN that "it is loud and clear from everybody in Egypt that Mubarak has to leave today, and it is non-negotiable for every Egyptian."
Asked about Obama's statements so far, he said, "I can tell you in honesty, as a friend of the U.S., that your policy right now is a failed policy, it is a policy that is lagging behind" and that the U.S. is "losing whatever is left of [its] credibility."
He said Mubarak will inevitably have to give up power and that "It's better for President Obama not to appear he is the last one to say to President Mubarak, 'It's time for you to go leave in dignity before things are going out of hand.'"
ElBaradei said that the fear a post-Mubarak Egypt would turn into another Islamic fundamentalist country like Iran "was a myth that was sold by the Mubarak regime" to keep the support of Western governments.
He said the Muslim Brotherhood
, which had the largest organized opposition to the government, did not pose the threat of turning Egypt into another Iran.
"This is totally bogus," ElBaradei said. "They are no way extremists. They are no way using violence. They are not a majority of the Egyptian people. They will not be more than maybe 20 percent of the Egyptian people. You have to include them like, you know, new evangelical, you know, groups in the U.S., like the orthodox Jews in Jerusalem."
ElBaradei said that there was a "100 percent difference" between Egypt and Iran.
Looking to the future, ElBaradei said, "There have been a number of declarations by different parts of Egyptian society, from right, left and center, mandating me to work with the army, with everybody in Egypt with the outside world ... to ensure a smooth transition."
However, he said that as of Sunday morning, he had not been in contact with army leaders.