'Arabist' Blogger Amrani Weighs In On Egypt News

Steve Inskeep talks with Issandr El Amrani, author of the blog "The Arabist," about the latest developments in Egypt. There are reports that President Hosni Mubarak may announce he is stepping down.

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RENEE MONTAGNE, host:

This is MORNING EDITION, from NPR News. I'm Renee Montagne.

STEVE INSKEEP, host:

And I'm Steve Inskeep. Good morning.

Here's the latest that we have on the situation of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak. We know from NPR's Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson, who's in Cairo, that the head of Egypt's ruling party has asked President Mubarak to resign. The head of the party did not say that, in fact, Mubarak has agreed to resign, but they're already talking about the problem of succession and whether laws need to be passed in order to allow that.

We also know that Egyptian generals have appeared on state TV today, and we know that protestors in Cairo's Tahrir Square have been told to expect an announcement tonight.

We're going to analyze all this with Issandr El Amrani. He's a longtime journalist, covering Egyptian politics, writes the blog called The Arabist. He's a past guest on this program.

Welcome back, sir.

Mr. ISSANDR EL AMRANI (Journalist; Blogger, The Arabist): Hi. Glad to be here.

INSKEEP: What's the best information that you're hearing?

Mr. AMRANI: Well, we're hearing all sorts of conflicting information. It does appear that President Mubarak is going to make a statement, some people say. Other people say he's already left Cairo for Sharm el-Sheikh, where he spends -this past year, he spent a lot of his time. It's not clear whether the vice president, Omar Suleiman, is poised to take over. Some people have reported that. Others are suggesting that since he wasn't in the meeting of the Supreme Military Council...

INSKEEP: Oh, yes. This meeting that was shown on television. Right.

Mr. AMRANI: That's right. Yeah. So it's really unclear what's happened. Everyone is waiting for the second communique of - from the military. It was significant that - from the images we saw on television, that the minister of defense, Mohammed Tantawi, was sitting where President Mubarak would normally sit. So it does appear - and certainly, that's the way the crowd in Tahrir Square has reacted - that President Mubarak will not be around for longer -whether he's being kicked out, or whether he will be able to present his resignation, (unintelligible).

INSKEEP: Well, now, let's follow up on that detail, because for those who didn't see it, Egyptian state TV was broadcasting images of what was basically a big, horseshoe-shaped table with generals all the way around. They were holding what we were told was an important meeting, and that they were going to continue to meet. You're telling me that in normal times, under ordinary circumstances, the president himself would be at the head of that table and conducting that meeting. And some people are reading into the - they're reading meaning into the fact that he wasn't even there.

Mr. AMRANI: That's right. I mean, and more than that, the Supreme Military Council hasn't met publically with - meetings haven't been publicized in years. The fact that this meeting has taken place at all is significant. There's a mood here of expectation, certainly that Hosni Mubarak is no longer in the picture. The big question, then, is: What does that mean? Does this mean that there will be a coup, that a constitution will be suspended? Or will then presidential succession take place according to the constitution if he's - if the president is deposed - is basically permanently incapacitated, in the wording of the Egyptian constitution - that means that the speaker of parliament becomes president. But that seems unlikely right now. He's not a strong political figure.

So there's a lot more questions. And, you know, what we've had so far is communique number one from the military. People are waiting for subsequent communiques to see where it's going.

And already, there have been different reactions. Some people say - and this is on Twitter, Wael Ghonim, one of the leaders of this uprising, tweets: Mission accomplished. He seems to be confident that President Mubarak is gone. For other people, it's not enough. They didn't go out and protest, and there hasn't been (unintelligible). You know, it's not a military leader.

INSKEEP: Issandr El Amrani, thanks very much.

Mr. AMRANI: Thank you.

INSKEEP: He's a blogger. He writes The Arabist, from Cairo.

We also have word from CIA director Leon Panetta today, speaking to Congress, saying there's a high likelihood of Mubarak leaving tonight. But as has just been made clear to us, we don't know the mechanics of how that will happen. And we'll bring you more as we learn it.

We also do not know if that tweet saying mission accomplished is confirmed yet. We have not confirmation of that yet.

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