Christiane Amanpour Nabs First Interview With Hosni Mubarak, Egypt President
NEW YORK — ABC News journalist Christiane Amanpour landed an exclusive interview with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak on Thursday after she went to his palace to speak to someone else.
The veteran foreign correspondent made it to the interview only after talking her way past an angry mob that had surrounded her car.
Amanpour wrote in a reporter's notebook on ABC's website that she left for the Presidential Palace after being granted an interview with new Vice President Omar Suleiman. Amanpour, who worked at CNN before joining ABC last year, wasn't available to talk about the experience, a network spokeswoman said.
While ABC's camera crew was setting up for the Suleiman interview, Amanpour asked to see Mubarak, whom she had interviewed in the past.
"Within what seemed like just minutes, I was whisked into a reception room where he was waiting," she wrote. "He greeted me warmly, and we started to talk. He looked tired, but well."
Mubarak, in power for nearly three decades, has been under heavy pressure from demonstrators to leave office, and everyday life in Cairo has been turned upside down by the largest anti-government protests in Egypt in decades. He told Amanpour that he'd like to leave office now but fears the country would sink deeper into chaos. He blamed an outlawed opposition group for the violence, with protesters and government supporters engaged in rock-throwing battles.
Amanpour's interview was off camera. She said she asked Mubarak after the conversation whether she could report on it and he said yes.
Because of Mubarak's supporters, Amanpour almost didn't make it to the Presidential Palace. She was caught up in the menacing atmosphere that many journalists – including herself the day before – have been facing in reporting on the country's unrest. Her car was stopped by traffic in a neighborhood where pro-Mubarak demonstrators had set up checkpoints, and it was surrounded by an angry mob, she wrote.
To get through took about an hour's negotiation, ended only when she showed a soldier official papers confirming her interview with Suleiman, she said.
"Nobody was hurt and nobody was attacked," she wrote, "but it was clearly an uncertain and unsettling hour."
In a further report on ABC's website, Amanpour said that:
—Mubarak said he was "fed up," but that if he resigns now, as the anti-government protesters want him to, there will be "chaos."
—Mubarak told her that he was "very unhappy" about the violence that broke out on Wedensday—which many have accused his government of orchestrating. "I was very unhappy about yesterday. I do not want to see Egyptians fighting each other," he said. He also blamed it on the banned Muslim Brotherhood.
—Mubarak told President Obama, "you don't understand the Egyptian culture and what would happen if I step down now."
—Mubarak "felt relief" after the Monday speech when he said he would not run for president again in September.
—He said he "never intended to run again," nor to have his son, Gamal, run either.
—Mubarak told her, ""I don't care what people say about me. Right now I care about my country, I care about Egypt."
Watch Amanpour's account of the interview: