Opposition groups in Egypt calling for the ouster of President Hosni Mubarak have begun to unify behind Mohamed ElBaradei, a Nobel peace laureate and former head of the United Nations' nuclear watchdog agency, according to news reports.
ElBaradei, who returned to Egypt only last week, briefly joined an estimated 50,000 protesters in Cairo's Tahrir Square who have defied curfews and clashed with the military. "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."
At least 100 people have died
in the protests, according to BBC News.
"Mr. ElBaradei's endorsement by the Muslim Brotherhood, Egypt's largest and best-organized opposition force, amounted to a historic display of unity
between the country's secular and Islamist opposition forces," The Wall Street Journal said. "The umbrella organization that organized the protests formed a steering committee on Sunday under Mr. ElBaradei to pressure the regime for more political concessions, according to senior Brotherhood leaders."
The demonstrators have called for a general strike on Monday, as the protests enter their seventh day. Meanwhile, the police have returned to the streets after being absent for two days, BBC News reported.
The U.S. State Department is urging American citizens in Egypt to "consider leaving as soon as they can safely do so
," Assistant Secretary Janice L. Jacobs said on Sunday. The United States is providing transport to a safe haven for Americans whose travel arrangements have been disrupted. The travelers will be required to reimburse the United States for the cost of their flights.
Over the weekend, President Obama telephoned the leaders of Turkey, Israel, Saudi Arabia and the United Kingdom to reiterate "his focus on opposing violence and calling for restraint; supporting universal rights, including the right to peaceful assembly, association and speech; and supporting an orderly transition to a government that is responsive to the aspirations of the Egyptian people," the White House said in a statement.
Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton spoke in similar terms on Sunday news programs.
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.
ElBaradei, who also appeared on the Sunday news programs, urged Obama to press Mubarak to give up power and said 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."
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."
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.
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.