'This Week' Transcript: Crisis in Egypt

Transcript: Crisis in Egypt

ByABC News
January 30, 2011, 4:00 AM

CAIRO, Feb 6, 2011 — -- (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

AMANPOUR (voice-over): This morning, we take you inside the uprising in Egypt for a special edition of "This Week," live from Cairo.

We were first inside the palace. We were first to speak with the embattled president. And today, more of my exclusive interview with the man who holds the key to Egypt's future. We have faced the mobs, our vehicles attacked.

(on-screen): Did they hurt you?

(voice-over): We have seen the rage and the violence. We have heard the people. Now the question everyone is asking: What next for Egypt? What will it mean for the United States and for the world?

A very special "This Week," "Crisis in Egypt," starts now.


AMANPOUR: Hello again from Cairo, where it has been an epic week here and across Egypt. The joy, the fear, the sheer power of people, the pathos of a president who tells me he knows his time is up, the almighty struggle just to bear witness to get the story out, and today, the start of an unprecedented new political process.

We have all the major actors, we have all the players, the massive moments in this electrifying drama. Whatever happens next, whatever becomes of this situation, the truth is that nothing will ever be the same in the Arab world, and that matters here and it matters to you. It has been the likes of which we have never seen before.


AMANPOUR (voice-over): This was the week that simmering tension in Tahrir Square boiled over, a change we could sense as early as Monday with a new display of force by the Egyptian army. As we approached the square, we saw more tanks, more armored vehicles, more foot soldiers trying to slow the traffic of protesters who've been streaming in for the past week.

(on-screen): We spoke to an army captain who doesn't want to go on camera, but he told me that his orders are to maintain discipline and to seal the square.

(voice-over): At one point, we got caught up in the crowd surging forward towards the square, but past the bottleneck, the shoving stopped, and the protesters seemed to be in good spirits.

(UNKNOWN): Welcome to Cairo. Welcome.

AMANPOUR: And it was that optimistic spirit that you felt in the square, flags waving, people singing...

(UNKNOWN): President Hosni Mubarak, change.

AMANPOUR: And they definitely wanted to be heard.

(UNKNOWN): You, Mubarak, we will put you to a crushing defeat. Whatever you do, you will be put to a crushing defeat. We never want you.

AMANPOUR: If that sounds like a primal scream, that's because it is. These are people who haven't been able to speak their mind for 30 years.

And so as night fell on Liberation Square last Monday, protesters camping out in tents were infused with new hope that change was coming, but the days ahead would only bring new challenges and grave dangers.

The next morning, for the first time, we ran into a crowd of pro-Mubarak supporters, afraid of losing everything, the president they've known for 30 years, afraid their country would descend into chaos. I was caught up in their palpable fear, practically pinned to the wall.

(on-screen): Why are you here today?

(UNKNOWN): We are here to support our president, Muhammad Hosni Mubarak, because we want him to be our president maybe forever.

AMANPOUR (voice-over): It's a strange mix of emotions. Here, Mubarak's people embrace the soldiers. And down the road at the entrance to Liberation Square, anti-Mubarak protesters work with the military, as well. Volunteers help with security. They check IDs as people filed into the square for what organizers hoped would grow to a million marchers.

(on-screen): Why are women and men being separated?

(UNKNOWN): Because this is personal check.


AMANPOUR: I get it.

(UNKNOWN): Like in airports.

AMANPOUR: I get it. OK. And what are you checking for?

(UNKNOWN): Bombs.

AMANPOUR: Even though the army is out in force, even though the government tried to stop them by closing down the train station, sealing off some the roads, this has been nonstop all day. It is certainly the biggest protest that this city has seen since they began a week ago.

(voice-over): The mood was jubilant. Egyptians for the first time were able to see life beyond the shadow of President Mubarak.

(on-screen): Do you think he did anything good for Egypt?

(UNKNOWN): Yes, I did. He's done a lot of good for Egypt. He's a tragic figure, in a way. He started out, you know, honorable, good, and well, but then, in the end, the concentration of power, his grip on power, his obsession with it is bringing this country down.

AMANPOUR (voice-over): And that night, the protesters came a step closer to getting what they wanted when President Mubarak announced that he would not run in the next election, a victory, but here it still wasn't enough.

And by morning, it became only too clear that the system would not go down without a fight. It started with a group of pro-Mubarak demonstrators shouting angrily, "He's not leaving," making their way towards the anti-Mubarak protesters assembled in Liberation Square. They streamed in on foot along the Nile and even floated down it. We were standing on a nearby rooftop watching as their numbers exploded.

And suddenly this almost medieval sight: men riding horses and camels galloping in at breakneck speeds, charging the crowd and cracking their whips. Soon, this square was a battleground, and it raged on for hours. Rocks were hurled from both sides. There were bloody beatings and Molotov cocktails tossed into the crowd. Some were likely genuine Mubarak supporters, but others merely thugs sent in as agitators.

People began ripping up pavement and turning it into weapons. At least three were killed and hundreds more were injured, a mosque turned into a field hospital.

We went back to the square and quickly found ourselves surrounded by an angry mob of pro-Mubarak supporters.

(UNKNOWN): We hate Americans (inaudible) OK, go (inaudible)

AMANPOUR (on-screen): You want us to go?

(UNKNOWN): Yes, I want you go to from here.


(UNKNOWN): Because we are hate you. We hate Americans.

AMANPOUR: You hate us?

(UNKNOWN): Yes, I hate you. And I hate you.

AMANPOUR: Why do you hate us?

(UNKNOWN): You are not good person (ph). Go to any (inaudible) you are not with us. You are not with us.

AMANPOUR: OK. All right.

(voice-over): They kicked in the car doors and broke our windshields as we drove off.

(on-screen): They hit the car with their fists over and over again and threw a rock through the front window. The glass is shattered all over our driver.

Are you OK? Did they hurt you? Wagi (ph), did they hit you?

(UNKNOWN): No. No.

AMANPOUR (voice-over): Violence flared that night as firing starting into the crowd. Morning brought with it some calm.

(on-screen): Inside the barricades, again, the protesters are lining up, their own civil defense here prepared for what might happen this afternoon.

(voice-over): All over the square, we saw the weary and the wounded, their foreheads, noses, faces bandaged and bloodied. Reinforcements were pouring in. People came with new supplies, bottled water and bread, blankets, digging in for the long haul.

(on-screen): Well, this is fruit juice, and this is...

(UNKNOWN): Cotton.

AMANPOUR: Cotton and sutures and surgical gloves.

(on-screen): It was then that we heard we were going to get our exclusive interview with Vice President Omar Suleiman. On our way there, we were apprehensive; journalists had come under attack all day and at one point an angry mob surrounded our car.

We reached the palace, which is surrounded at this point by tanks, under military escort. And as our cameraman was setting up for our exclusive interview with Vice President Omar Suleiman, I asked if I could see President Mubarak. Within minutes, I was whisked into a reception room to see him.

I asked him how he was. He said, "I feel strong." He said, "I'm not the kind of person to run." And he said, "I will die on Egyptian soil."

When I asked him about whether he would step down now, he said to me, "You know, Christiane, I've been in public service for 62 years, and now I'm fed up and I want to retire." He said he didn't care what people were saying about him right now. He said that he cared only about his country, about Egypt, and that when the time comes, he said he would die in Egypt.

When we returned to Tahrir Square the next day, we were surrounded by people who had heard about my meeting with the president and who wanted to ask me about it.

(on-screen): I spoke to him yesterday. I saw him at the palace. And I said to him, "There are people who tell me they don't trust you when you say you will step down." And he said, "I've made my decision."

(UNKNOWN): What did he say exactly?

AMANPOUR: He said that he felt that he had met your demands.

(UNKNOWN): No, he's a liar. He's a -- he's a big liar. We don't believe him at all.

AMANPOUR (voice-over): Now, with the White House pushing publicly for a quicker political process to start and help the transition along, these protesters are growing impatient for just that.

(UNKNOWN): (OFF-MIKE) steps down. We don't trust him.

(UNKNOWN): The war on the ground, the struggle has been achieved. We still have not achieved the political battle.

(UNKNOWN): We need a book called the Constitution. If we brought in a person that we don't like, the next time we don't vote him in.

AMANPOUR: But there are many Egyptians who are just as impatient for these protests, which have brought the economy to a screeching halt, to end.

(UNKNOWN): Go back to work and continue our lives.

AMANPOUR (on-screen): So what do you think should happen now?

(UNKNOWN): We think it should stop. I mean (inaudible) what has been granted by the government and the concessions they made is enough for now.

AMANPOUR: For the first time in the last couple of days, we're walking freely on this bridge, which has been the sight of clashes, of surrounding journalists, of being hostile. Today, it's peaceful.

(voice-over): And with calm restored to the square, the protesters were left to watch and wait.


AMANPOUR: And so today, for the first time after this incredible week, things look a bit back to normal. There is traffic. Banks have been open for several hours today. And also, an unprecedented political process is underway. For the first time in the history of this country, the government has now met with members of the Muslim Brotherhood and other opposition groups, including members of the youth movement. But the Muslim brotherhood is banned here, and yet the powerful Vice President Omar Suleiman has now been meeting with them.

They've had meetings to which they've said they've organized a committee to lift the repressive state of emergency that's been in effect for decades and also to lift press restrictions on the state press here, that they will be free and able to work without any censorship. We discussed all this in my exclusive interview with Omar Suleiman.


AMANPOUR: You said that you would start a dialogue with the opposition parties.


AMANPOUR: Including Mr. ElBaradei?

SULEIMAN: No, ElBaradei is not one of the opposition. He has his own group, which -- related to the Brother Muslimhood (ph) or have links with Brother Muslimhood (ph). And Brother Muslimhood (ph) ask me that they want to open a dialogue with me without Mr. ElBaradei.

AMANPOUR: What do you understand by "transition must happen now," as the United States is saying and many other countries are saying?

SULEIMAN: It is a process starting by national dialogue, which has started this -- this morning, and we will continue tomorrow and after tomorrow. We want the young people to know that all your demands, all your requests we respond (inaudible) and we promise that we will do, and we need quiet time to implement these things to happen.

AMANPOUR: What is your fear if President Mubarak was to say, "I've had enough." He told me that he's had enough, 62 years of public service and he wants -- he wants to go, but not quite yet. What are the concerns? Why would he not go now?

SULEIMAN: We don't want tears in our country (ph). If President Mubarak would say that "I'm leaving now," who would take over? In the constitution, that means the -- the speaker would take over. I think with this atmosphere, that means that the other people who have their own agenda will make instability in our country.

AMANPOUR: Will you present yourself as a candidate for president?

SULEIMAN: No, no. According to this constitution, I cannot. I am not from -- from any party. I'm not belonging to any party or to any group, which I cannot be candidate as a constitution.

AMANPOUR: If it was possible, would you run for president?

SULEIMAN: I don't think so.


SULEIMAN: Well, I'm became old man (ph). I did a lot for the country. And I have no urges for to be president of this country. When the president asked me to be vice president, I accepted directly just to help the president in this critical time.

AMANPOUR: When you see what's happening on the streets of Egypt, of Tunisia, and now of Jordan and Yemen and Syria, what do you think? These are young people who want a different world.

SULEIMAN: This is -- this is the (inaudible) current (ph) who push these people.

AMANPOUR: You think that?


AMANPOUR: You don't think it's young people who want their rights, their freedom?

SULEIMAN: I don't think that's only from the young people; others are pushing them to do that.

AMANPOUR: In many parts of the Arab world, there's been no democracy. Do you not think the young people in today's world, connected to the Internet, seeing everything that they see, do you not think that it comes from their hearts?

SULEIMAN: It's (inaudible) talk altogether, but it's not their idea. It comes from abroad.

AMANPOUR: Do you believe in democracy?

SULEIMAN: For sure, everybody believes in democracy.

AMANPOUR: So do you not...

SULEIMAN: But when you will do that, when you would -- when the people here will have the culture of democracy.

AMANPOUR: We know what the opposition wants. What do you want from the opposition?

SULEIMAN: I want from the opposition to understand that, in this limited time, we can do what President Mubarak have -- have said, and we cannot do more, and when new president will come, you will have more time to make any changes you want.

AMANPOUR: What message do you have for the young people who are still standing and still in that Liberation, Tahrir Square?

SULEIMAN: We can say only go home; we cannot do more than that. We cannot push them by force. Everybody has to go home. We want to have normal life. We don't want anybody in the streets. Go to work. Bring back once again the tourists. Go to the normal life. Save the economy of the country.

AMANPOUR: Mr. Vice President, thank you very much for being with us.

SULEIMAN: Thank you.


AMANPOUR: And so now, after these historic talks that have started, will that satisfy the protesters? Will they start to go away from the square? We will ask when we come back Egypt's ambassador to the United States about what the latest meetings mean, and we will also get the view from the White House when our special "This Week" live from Cairo returns.

AMANPOUR: Welcome back to our special edition of "This Week," live from Cairo. With the Egyptian government now meeting with the Muslim Brotherhood and other opposition leaders, including members of the youth movement, could this be the beginning of the path to political stability?

Joining me now from Washington is Egypt's ambassador to the United States, Sameh Shoukry.

Thank you so much for joining us this morning.

SHOUKRY: Thank you for having me.

AMANPOUR: First of all, Ambassador Shoukry, this is unprecedented, isn't it, the Egyptian government, Vice President Suleiman meeting with leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood?

SHOUKRY: Well, it's certainly a very important development, one that indicates a willingness to discuss and continue to -- on the reform process with all segments of the opposition, including the Muslim Brotherhood.

AMANPOUR: So since this political process seems now to be publicly underway, what is the roadmap? Everybody wants to know that.

SHOUKRY: The roadmap continues to be an orderly and meaningful transition to greater democratic reforms, meeting the aspirations of the Egyptian people in terms of their economic well-being, and continuing to prepare for the transition for the next presidential election.

AMANPOUR: What do you understand the United States' position to be now, publicly and behind the scenes? Their special envoy, Frank Wisner, has said that for reform to happen, for the constitution to be amended, President Mubarak needs to be at the helm of that process.

SHOUKRY: The U.S. administration I think can only be referred -- can only refer you to the statement by President Obama, quite an extensive statement last Friday, in which he indicated on several occasions that this was an Egyptian process, that this was an issue that the Egyptian people would decide, and that the importance was an orderly and meaningful transition of the presidency and the new direction towards greater democratic and economic and social reforms.

Ambassador Wisner is a recognized, very competent and -- and experienced diplomat, as was mentioned by everybody associated to the administration, the spokesman of -- the White House spokesman, and I'm sure his opinion is highly valued.

AMANPOUR: Let me ask you, a consensus seems to have come out of the meeting today between Vice President Suleiman, the Muslim Brotherhood, and others that they will form a committee to start talking about amending the constitution, but importantly that they have agreed to lift the decades-old state of emergency. How significant is that? That, of course, has been responsible for the oppressive political atmosphere and the repressive security atmosphere here.

SHOUKRY: It would be a very significant move. It has been a longstanding demand of most of the opposition and many segments of Egyptian society to guarantee that all political activity is undertaken under normal law and in the confines of the normal judiciary. So it would be a significant step and an indication of confidence that the political process is moving forward.

AMANPOUR: And, lastly, you have seen -- the world has seen the appalling images of the crackdown on the reporters and the journalists trying to tell this story. How bad has that been for Egypt? And why was that allowed to happen?

SHOUKRY: It's a deplorable situation, one that has been condemned by various officials in the Egyptian government as totally unacceptable. But, unfortunately, the security vacuum and the difficult situation with many different segments and proponents of these demonstrations have caused a difficult security environment, and I'm confident that this will not be reoccurring.

AMANPOUR: And, Ambassador, just one last thing. The violence against the protesters, how bad has that been for Egypt? And why was that allowed to happen?

SHOUKRY: This is a very wide protest movement. The emotions were high and the situation was tense. And the capability of the military to handle this sort of situation has -- was not at the outset sufficient. That has been rectified, and now the military has more men on the ground to be able to handle this situation. And as you have noticed during the last two or three day, the demonstrations have been underway under the protection of the military without any incidence of violence.

AMANPOUR: Ambassador Shoukry, thank you for joining us, and certainly the atmosphere has changed completely. It is peaceful on the streets right now.

When we return, what is the Obama administration doing? We get that view from ABC's Jake Tapper and our very special Cairo roundtable when we return.