ElBaradei: Morsy's ouster was needed so Egypt cannot 'fail'

Mohamed ElBaradei: Morsy messed up
Mohamed ElBaradei: Morsy messed up

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Story highlights

  • Mohamed ElBaradei calls President Morsy's ouster "a recall"
  • He said the military risked civil war if it didn't do what it did
  • Muslim Brotherhood has a place in Egypt going forward, he says
  • "We cannot afford Egypt to fail," says the Nobel Peace Prize winner

Prominent Egyptian reformist Mohamed ElBaradei called the military's ouster of President Mohamed Morsy the right thing for the country, even as he said all parties -- including Morsy's Muslim Brotherhood -- should be part of Egypt's future.

"We cannot afford Egypt to fail," ElBaradei told CNN on Thursday. "Nobody can afford Egypt to fail."

Six years after winning the Nobel Peace Prize for his work as head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, ElBaradei was among those who pushed successfully for the overthrow of President Hosni Mubarak in January 2011.

Mohamed ElBaradei: Fast Facts

Morsy won that race, but since taking office he hasn't won over liberals, reformists and others such as ElBaradei who criticized him for not governing for all Egyptians, failing to bolster a faltering economy and promoting a constitution and social policies that some call too restrictive.

That sentiment boiled over recently in a massive nationwide rally, followed by the military's demand that Morsy accede to some of the opposition's demands. He did not, and troops subsequently placed him under house arrest and appointed an interim successor.

Pro-Morsy protesters hit with tear gas
Pro-Morsy protesters hit with tear gas

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What's next for Egypt?
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ElBaradei: We need to work together
Egyptian opposition leader and Nobel Prize laureate Mohamed ElBaradei at a press conference in Cairo on January 28, 2013.

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Muslim Brotherhood remains defiant
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ElBaradei, considered to the be leader of the opposition, insists the military's move is not a coup.

"Either we risk a civil war or ... take extra constitutional measures to ensure that we keep the country together," he said, explaining the military's conundrum. "This is a recall, and it is nothing novel."

The fact that Egypt is in this situation, the former diplomat said, is difficult, especially given the high hopes many in the North African nation had following Mubarak's exit.

Egypt: The most populous country in the Arab world

The election that Morsy won was "fairly free," ElBaradei acknowledged.

"Then, unfortunately, the president messed up," he told CNN. "When you end up with 20 million people in the street, of the state of mind that he needs to go and he needs to go now, it's a sad state."

The diplomat said Morsy's departure will serve as a "reset," so Egypt can start over in forming a constitution and putting together an inclusive government.

That government should include members of the Muslim Brotherhood, the Islamist organization that was banned under Mubarak but has become Egypt's most powerful political force, according to ElBaradei. He said he assumes Morsy could even run again for president, "though I don't think he would."

What is the Muslim Brotherhood?

"I would hope qualified people from the Brotherhood, from the Salafists should be part of this government," ElBaradei said. "We need everybody need to be part of the political process. We need a cohesive society that is tolerant, that respects each others' differences."

The Muslim Brotherhood propelled Morsy into office, although he resigned as leader of its political arm, the Freedom and Justice Party, after becoming president.

While ElBaradei stated flatly that he personally isn't interested in becoming president, he said he is "deeply concerned" about Egypt and willing to do what he can to help steer it to a brighter future

Opinion: Will the Muslim Brotherhood survive?

Egyptians have limited patience after years of political and economic turmoil, he said.

"My fears are that we do not deliver," ElBaradei said. "My fear is that the Brotherhood will fear that they are excluded. We need a quick delivery. And ... we need to show the people that we are really focusing on their basic needs."