Secretary General Amr Moussa is widely expected to run for president of Egypt in the country's upcoming elections. Democracy Now! Senior Producer Sharif Abdel Kouddous sits down with Amr Moussa in the headquarters of the Arab League next to Tahrir Square in downtown Cairo for a conversation about Egypt's revolution, his potential presidential candidacy, the military's role in Egypt, treaties with Israel, and popular uprisings across the Middle East.
Here is an excerpt of the interview transcript:
SHARIF ABDEL KOUDDOUS: What are your thoughts on what happened and where Egypt stands today?
SECRETARY GENERAL AMR MOUSSA: Well, Egypt today is going through a transitional period, where things will certainly move in the direction of preparing the ground for the next phase, or the era of a new Egypt--the preparation for the election of the president, election of parliament, drafting of a new constitution, preparing a vision for Egypt of the future after the transitional period. Now, the work centers on amending the constitution, dissolving the parliament, and other steps, like releasing the prisoners, political prisoners. And all those steps are positive ones, changing the atmosphere. And it is my opinion that Egypt, after the 25th of January, is different, totally different, than the one before that date. It's a different Egypt. And therefore we have to prepare for that, with a vision, a constitution, new faces, young people. And that's why I am really optimistic about the future of Egypt, after this revolution, or uprising, as you have described.
SHARIF ABDEL KOUDDOUS: Do you intend to run for president?
SECRETARY GENERAL AMR MOUSSA: Well, it depends on the amendments to the constitution and how they are framing the new basis of the election of the president. Then, at that moment, one can decide as an Egyptian citizen. My opinion is that now I have to move from my job as secretary general of the Arab League to be just an Egyptian private citizen. And from that standpoint, I will decide what should be my next move.
SHARIF ABDEL KOUDDOUS: What would your electoral platform be? What issues would you run on?
SECRETARY GENERAL AMR MOUSSA: Well, as I'm telling you, there must be a new vision, a new vision that should be based on two main items: democracy and reform. Under democracy, there are a lot of issues that we have to talk about and laws that have to be enacted and steps that have to be taken. Under reform, it is a wide agenda to reform the aspects of life, the basic things, the basis for the Egyptian life. What happened before, in fact, produced, caused tension and a lot of what you may call a situation that makes the Egyptian society suffers and does not function properly. We have to get back the society to function properly, considering all the major items which form the life and build the life of any society--education, health, the young people, women, the rights, human rights, transparency. There are so many things that will have to be tackled, and they have to be reformed, in the right sense of the term "reform," not just a superficial one, but deep reform that would bring back--compensate for what we have lost for so many years and build a new Egyptian society.
SHARIF ABDEL KOUDDOUS: You were a part of the Mubarak government for more than a decade. Some have criticized you, saying you didn't call for reform then. What's your response to that?
SECRETARY GENERAL AMR MOUSSA: Well, I was foreign minister, yes, for 10 years, and I had my own way of thinking and acting and stands that I have taken. I was the foreign minister of Egypt at that time, that I cannot deny. I should not deny. In fact, I must say that this was a period of time where I have done several things to serve our country and to streamline our policy and to be very clear in expressing to the world where Egypt stands. That, I have done. I'm not born yesterday. To say that I have done anything or nothing up until this moment, that is not the case. Yes, I was a participant. I was ambassador of Egypt also for 10 years, and then foreign minister of Egypt. This has to be underlined. I'm not foreign minister of X or Y, but foreign minister of Egypt and ambassador of Egypt. Those points will have to be underlined.
SHARIF ABDEL KOUDDOUS: There are strikes continuing across Egypt, across sectors of the economy. The military has warned against these strikes. Do you think the military should not make such warnings against the strikers?
SECRETARY GENERAL AMR MOUSSA: No, those strikes are the result of the bad management of so many things in our society--in government or public sector or private sector. Therefore, they came out with their complaints and their aspirations. I believe the time will come to tackle that--not in the transitional period, but in the new era of Egypt, the new government of Egypt, the new president of Egypt. They have--the strikes have declared, have explained, the position or the complaints, the malaise, the--you can say even the aspirations, the hopes, of several segments of the Egyptian society. That's fine. This has to be noted and has to be tackled when the new Egypt is emerging, that the labor force needs reconsideration of their position, of their salaries, of their rights, and also the fellahin in the villages, the students, the young people, the women, and so on. This will come. But this is a--what you may call a warning signal, a wake-up call, that we are here and we have demands. So this, I believe, has been duly noted. So when the Supreme Council calls for--he is saying, in fact, "OK, now we know. But at this time, we need calm." We'll see how things and how the dialogue between the Supreme Council and those forces will take place, but this is how I understand it.
SHARIF ABDEL KOUDDOUS: You're still secretary general of the Arab League. There's uprisings happening now in Libya, in Bahrain, in Yemen. There's been violent government crackdowns on these uprisings in those three countries. Some have--there's human rights groups have been critical of you and the Arab League for not condemning these actions by these governments against these popular uprisings.
SECRETARY GENERAL AMR MOUSSA: No, no, we have done that, yesterday, in a very clear statement, and today, in another one, that they have to stop. The using violence against the demonstrations has to come to an end immediately, and that the dealing with such expression of opinion by the people should not be accepted. So, yesterday, in a very clear-cut statement--I am astonished that some have not read it. It was on the computer, on the Facebook, on the site of the Arab League, in the newspapers, the news bars. So I believe that is what we have done as a regional organization. We talked about the violence, about the dead and the wounded. We talked about the way to deal with such situations. There is a wave in the Arab world, wave in the Middle East, wave in North Africa, that all of us want change. And this is a historical development. It is a new trend. It will not be stopped by violence. You see, violence has been tried, but then, dialogue is--and change should be the address--should be the goal. Our position on this was very clear.
SHARIF ABDEL KOUDDOUS: Finally, this uprising in Egypt was watched by the world, inspired much of the world. You're a leading figure in Egypt across the Arab world. Why do you think this happened in this way? And what do you think it can--the message that it sends to the international community?
SECRETARY GENERAL AMR MOUSSA: First, Egypt is central to this region and has an important place on the world map, political map. Therefore, whatever happens here is observed, is watched with a lot of attention. So, once this happened, everybody, worldwide, region-wide, expected that the domino effect will work, after the Egyptian revolution or the Egyptian uprising. So I believe that we are now--as I said before, the winds of change are sweeping this region. And once the Egyptian revolution, which we have seen and admired, has succeeded, or is on its way to succeed--and we have to make it succeed--this will inspire the rest of the region--not only the Middle East, by the way, North Africa and the rest. I was reading an article this morning about the effects of the Egyptian revolution in India. See, as far as India. And it was debated also in China. I read that in some international newspapers. So that shows the weight of the developments in Egypt, of the revolution in Egypt. Very inspiring, and very expressive of the Egyptian active involvement in their own affairs, because we were accused of--we don't care about that; as long as there is a piece of bread and a piece of cheese, OK, nobody will raise it up. No, the young people, or the under people, of Egypt have expressed themselves differently. They talked about freedom. They talked about the future. They talked about the role of Egypt. This is very important. And this is the message. This is the message that now people can change. When they want to change, they are determined to change, they succeed in changing. This message is going around all over the world, and in particular in this region.