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Diplomat undecided on election run

Nobel laureate Mohamed ElBaradei, former head of the UN nuclear watchdog agency, has said that he will run for president of Egypt only if a real democratic system is in place, not the reforms the country's military leaders are proposing.

Mr ElBaradei told a private Egyptian television that the suggested constitutional amendments to move Egypt toward democracy are "superficial". He appealed to the military rulers to scrap them or delay a scheduled March 19 referendum on them.

"We are at a decisive period in Egypt's history," he told ONTV. "We shouldn't rush. Everything should be on a solid basis."

The constitutional amendments limit a president to two four-year terms. They also allow independents and opposition members to run, impossible under the regime of deposed president Hosni Mubarak.

Even so, Mr ElBaradei said he would vote against the amendments. He said the changes do not limit the powers of president or give enough time for political parties to form, and set parliamentary elections too soon.

The military rulers have said they want to hand over power six months after the ousting of Mr Mubarak. The proposed amendments suggest that elections, both presidential and parliamentary, would take place during that period.

However, there is no proposed change in the laws that regulate forming political parties.

This, MR ElBaradei said, would allow remnants of Mr Mubarak's party and the well organised Muslim Brotherhood to control the new parliament. He also expressed concern that the current lack of security would hamper ability of authorities to secure the elections or protect people going to vote.

"After all this, how can the parliament be representative," he said. "I can't rule Egypt for one day under this constitution."

Since his return to Egypt last year, Mr ElBaradei has reinvigorated a youth movement that reached out to him as a leader in their calls for reform, seeing him as independent, untainted by state corruption and as a figure who represents international success.

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