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ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES

'Day of Departure' Protests in Egypt

Aired February 4, 2011 - 22:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Everybody, good evening.

We are live from Cairo yet again tonight. And what a remarkable day we have seen, a day very different than some of the worst fears and predictions of what was going to happen, and a day very different than the last two days that we have been coming to you from.

Our situation also obviously on the ground has changed, as you can tell from the quality of this broadcast. We're standing outside. We have actual lights. That's a sign that the security situation in the area that we're in we feel has drastically improved. Otherwise, we would still be broadcasting from indoors for security reasons, as we have for the last two nights.

That being said, it was a remarkable day of peaceful protest in Liberation Square, though in the last few hours there has been accounts of sporadic gunfire in the square.

We want to check in with a CNN stringer who is -- has been reporting from the square, Ian Lee.

Ian, what's the latest? What were those shots about; what happened?

IAN LEE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, about 1:45 in the morning here, we were hearing heavy gunfire coming from the boundary of the square.

After that, we were hearing shouts of Allahu akbar. Now, the gunfire persisted for about an hour. But talking to our sources there near where it was, the pro-Mubarak protesters tried to test the lines of the anti-Mubarak protesters, and the army, seeing them coming, fired in the air to disperse them.

There was several times that these pro-Mubarak protesters would try to test that line. Every time, the army would shoot in the air to try to push them back -- Anderson.

COOPER: So, Ian, that was -- when was the last time that there were reports of gunfire?

LEE: Well, the last time that we heard gunfire was about 2:30 in the morning here in Cairo.

I am personally about -- you know, I'm on the southern end of the square, and this happened about -- around the northern end of the square. And the last time that we heard it was about 2:30 in the morning here.

COOPER: All right, Ian, I appreciate that. Stay safe. We will continue to check in with you.

Again, a remarkable day. We did see sporadic acts of violence today. The offices of one news network were also attacked, according to them, were burned by thugs who entered and trashed the offices.

But, by and large, journalists were able to get to the square and to report on what they saw.

Our Ivan Watson was there. We're going to check in with him shortly, as well as Ben Wedeman and our full team who have been covering these events since they began now on what is day 12, so 12 days ago is when all of this began.

Let's begin with a wrap-up of what we saw and heard today.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER (voice-over): Given the violence of the last 48 hours, it was a remarkable sight, tens of thousands of opposition protesters crammed into Liberation Square, shoulder to shoulder, for a demonstration called the day of departure.

They came from different walks of life, united with one message, a message for Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak: Get out and get out now.

"No Mubarak," they chant. "Tomorrow, we will use our boots to step on you."

Despite that tough talk, the day was peaceful, the crowds rejoicing in their newfound freedom to express their opinions. Dancing and singing replaced the scenes of savage beatings we have seen for days. Though some journalists still came under attack elsewhere in the city, the crackdown on the media from thugs roaming around the square subsided.

BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: As people here will tell you, those were not Egyptians. These are the real Egyptians who have come out here to protest for democracy.

COOPER: It was safe enough for journalists to get into the square, though some threats remain.

IVAN WATSON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Our neighbors at this location have warned us that suspected secret police are outside trying to get in to shut our -- potentially shut us down.

COOPER: The Egyptian military finally stepped up their presence around Liberation Square, corralling pro-Mubarak demonstrators, using their tanks and barbed wire to separate the two groups. It was a welcome sign of order after days of mayhem.

The country's defense minister, Mohamed Hussein Tantawi, made his first appearance in Liberation Square. Whether it was a sign to anti- Mubarak protesters or an attempt to rally the morale of his troops is unclear.

Amid solemn moments of reflection during the Muslim call to prayer, the threat of chaos hung not far away. Mubarak loyalists attacked opposition protesters on the outskirts of the square.

WATSON: We have seen pitched battles taking place between gangs of pro and anti-government demonstrators. And again these tactics almost medieval, where the teenagers, the youths go out with these makeshift shields and barricades and claim one street after another, block by block.

COOPER: Since violence erupted in Egypt, at least 11 have been killed and more than 900 wounded according to the Egyptian Health Ministry.

President Obama spoke with a message for the Egyptian government.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: In order for Egypt to have a bright future, which I believe it can have, the only thing that will work is moving a orderly transition process that begins right now.

COOPER: Though today's gathering was called the day of departure, President Mubarak did not step down by the end of this day. He is still in office, still holed up in his palace. The protesters still remain in the square.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: And we're joined now by Ivan Watson, who is at the square, and also Ben Wedeman, and CNN's Hala Gorani.

Ivan, you were watching all of this extraordinary bravery and courage, really. To remember what we have witnessed and what Egyptians here have witnessed for 48 hours, the brutality of the attacks, and yet to come out in such numbers and stand shoulder to shoulder, one with another, and brave the thugs and brave beatings was an extraordinary thing, Ivan.

WATSON: Really incredible, and -- and especially considering that this time last night, when we were all talking, we really had the feeling that something ominous and terrible was going to happen with attempts to shut down the international and local media and the deployment of additional troops around here.

Little did we realize that that was actually going to give some space for this remarkable and for the most part peaceful gathering in what had been a war zone for two days and two nights.

COOPER: Ben Wedeman, Ben, why the change? I mean, we definitely saw the Egyptian military actually step in and separate the two.

WEDEMAN: Because there has been some criticism in the Egyptian media of the behavior of the army over the last previous two days, just standing by and allowing these thugs to go into the square.

It may also be an attempt to contain the demonstration, to stop it from going elsewhere, and to keep it contained and possibly to make it less interesting from a media point of view by simply having it day after day a stationary protest, same thing all the time.

COOPER: But -- but seeing the military actually searching people, actually checking I.D.s and stuff, to me, it just put into stark contrast and -- and raises the question, why didn't the military do that over the last 48 hours, when pro-Mubarak demonstrators were descending without being checked at all upon the anti-Mubarak demonstrators?

HALA GORANI, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I asked the Egyptian foreign minister, Ahmed Abul Gheit, that, and he said, well, what should we have done, just sent thousands and thousands of troops into the square? If they had received one threat against them, they would have had to fire back. It would have made the situation much worse, although we see today that with a very much increased presence on the streets, it's much more peaceful.

COOPER: And I'm sorry, that sounds laughable, because it's not as if there were thousands and thousands of additional troops. It took some concertina wire and some determination, and they were able to keep peace.

WEDEMAN: And that's what can be done.

But, obviously, there are decisions being made at a much higher level than the foreign minister about how to deal with these demonstrations. The foreign minister is not involved in security matters.

GORANI: But one thing I found interesting is that, despite the fact that there was an increased military presence, there were still civilian checkpoints, literally every 200 yards, from here and one mile down the road. So, people are still wanting to take security into their own hands in some cases.

COOPER: Ivan, what are you hearing from the anti-Mubarak protesters? Are they just intending to continue to stay there until he steps down?

WATSON: Absolutely, absolutely. They're not going anywhere right now.

And I feel that they're emboldened after having survived the two days and two nights of clashes here, and then getting the moral support of the tens of thousands of people who came who haven't been fighting here to defend this turf, but have come in to -- to join in.

I mean, we had people from the upscale neighborhoods of Cairo coming in, intellectuals, serious politicians who have spoken out against the government, Amr Moussa, the former foreign minister and Arab League head. The defense minister evidently paid a visit here. So I think the numbers have swelled yet again here. And while the military was controlling the northern and western edges of the barricades here and of what has become an opposition enclave, the eastern edges were not controlled.

So while a lot of our attention was focused on the remarkable scene, the dancing and clapping here, there were pretty violent clashes taking place in the side streets to the east of the enclave.

And the opposition activists, they did manage to capture more territory. They moved several city blocks, if not more, to the east and set up more barricades there. And it's a sign that, you know, this genie is out of the bottle. These clashes are continuing. And it's going to be hard to bring this under control and put a stop to it.

COOPER: And, Ivan, at one point during the broad -- I was listening to your reporting today live from the square. It sounded like that you had concern that there were some state agents or secret police actually searching for cameras. What happened?

WATSON: Yes, I'm still not sure exactly what was going on there.

We have had men, plainclothed men come to this very location in the past, not showing any identification, searching our bags, searching our equipment, and questioning us in the past and asking for our identities.

And, as I'm learning, that seems to be a bit of the norm in Egypt. So when people show up banging and trying to get in, it could be an enthusiastic demonstrator. It could be secret police. And our neighbors advised us that they thought it was the latter and told us to hunker down.

And given the activities of the past of the past -- of the past 48 hours that you know better than me -- you have been assaulted several times -- it pays to be very cautious.

We do know -- I spoke with one photographer who was briefly detained by Egyptian soldiers right outside the Egyptian Museum. He said he was taken inside, and there some kind of military Mukhabarat, plainclothed man, took his video -- his film cards, confiscated them on site.

And that was right inside the Egyptian Museum, almost a punishment really for the fact that this photographer had been out taking photos. And the photographer said that that officer had a number of other photo cards that had clearly been seized from other photographers throughout the course of the day.

COOPER: Right.

We are going to have more from Ivan Watson, Ben Wedeman, Hala Gorani.

There's also now a video circulating on the Internet, a very disturbing video, of what appears to be a U.S. diplomatic vehicle, a white van, literally plowing through a group of protesters. We're going to have what the U.S. government is saying about this video and a lot more live from Cairo in a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

WATSON: The scene here is joyous, thousands of thousands of people kneeling on the ground, because Friday is the Muslim holy day of the week, and a pretty remarkable scene, especially in a place that had basically been a battleground for two days and two nights.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Truly, a remarkable scene.

When you consider, again -- I have said this before, but I think it bears repeating -- the courage that it takes to witness the violence that we have all witnessed, and yet to still, as a citizen here, who does not have the same kind of rights as other citizens in other countries perhaps, to go to that square and speak out, without any guaranties of what's going to happen or that the state is going to protect you or the military is going to protect you, it was an extraordinary thing to witness.

And I know you've seen these images for a lot of images and maybe they all look the same, but these images today are different because of the courage that it took to go there after the last 48 hours.

I also want to show you a little bit more of what President Obama said today.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: We want to see this moment of turmoil turn into a moment of opportunity. The entire world is watching. What we hope for and what we will work for is a future where all of Egyptian society seizes that opportunity.

Now, right now a great and ancient civilization is going through a time of tumult and transformation. And even as there are grave challenges and great uncertainty, I am confident that the Egyptian people can shape the future that they deserve.

And as they do, they will continue to have a strong friend and partner in the United States of America.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: President Obama today.

You may be hearing call to prayers behind us. It is just after 5:00 a.m. here, probably around 5:20 or so. A new day, day 12, has begun. And we won't to follow events live now in Liberation Square. I'm joined by Professor Fouad Ajami, a professor at Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies in Washington. Also joined by CNN's John King, and of course Ben Wedeman.

Professor Ajami, your thoughts on what you witnessed today?

FOUAD AJAMI, PROFESSOR OF MIDDLE EASTERN STUDIES, JOHNS HOPKINS SCHOOL OF ADVANCED INTERNATIONAL STUDIES: I think what we have witnessed, Anderson, is basically a great standoff.

We have ridden this roller coaster of a story. You have a revolution there in the square. You have a regime hunkered down. You have the man who is the target of this revolution thinking that he can run out the clock, that he can outwait these people, that he can drive people's attention away from this drama.

And I think it really is a classic standoff. This is where we now stand between Mubarak and this movement. I think four men and only four men in Egypt know exactly what the script is. And that's Mubarak, his vice president, the chief of staff, and the defense minister.

And I think if we look back on what we went through last night, when we all were assembled, and we were doing the story, it looked like a prelude to a crackdown. The crackdown did not materialize, and each party has taken the measure of the other.

Mubarak now can -- realizes that these people are not going away. And then, for their part, the demonstrators understand that this is a very stubborn man, and that the so-called day of departure came and went, and he did not depart.

So, we're still -- each party, I believe, has taken the measure of the other, and a massive crackdown was being planned -- this is my judgment -- a massive crackdown was being planned, but the army did not -- would not do it.

COOPER: John King from Washington, what have you heard? What are we hearing for the last several hours?

JOHN KING, HOST, "JOHN KING, USA": Anderson, we are at what the administration believes is a critical moment of choice. They are very heartened and encouraged by not only the fact that the army protected the demonstrators today, but that Field Marshal Tantawi got out and actually went and talked to them.

Yes, he told them to go to home. Yes, he told them their demands were on the way to being met. But they believe that was an important symbol. Now, here is the question in Washington and the question around the world. Did the army do that to buy time for Mubarak to try to run out the clock, sap the energy out of the protesters, or did the army do that as a signal?

The administration is very cautiously, but more optimistic tonight, Anderson, that as we head into the next week of this drama, Vice President Suleiman, prime -- Field Marshal Tantawi -- excuse me -- will tell President Mubarak he must find a way out, go to Sharm el- Sheikh, step back, if he doesn't absolutely, officially cede power, at least recede from the picture, and allow a more transitional government to step forward.

They're not certain they're at that point, but I can tell you in their private conversations with the military, they're increasingly confident that the military will not be involved in any other crackdown. This is very hard to track because it is so secretive, the most secretive and probably. The most fabulous and fascinating conversations months or years from now when we actually get the details would be Secretary of Defense Gates with Field Marshal Tantawi.

But, again, there's a smaller -- smaller, but noticeable sense of optimism tonight that they are going to resolve this over the course of the next week to 10 days.

COOPER: Yes, the diplomatic cables that are going back and forth must be extraordinary.

Ben, you live in this region. You have reported it for so long. What is your sense as you look at the tea leaves?

WEDEMAN: Well, my feeling is, yes, John is right.

They tried a crackdown. There's still a crackdown going on. In fact, even though in the square they're leaving them alone, human rights activists around Cairo have been rounded up. But I think what they're doing is they're just trying to wait it out, let the demonstrations continue within the square itself, well aware that, next week, work starts again in Egypt, the stock markets open, people expect schools and universities to reopen.

People have to get back to work. The protesters are even talking about a shift system, whereby people will remain in the square, but those who need to go to work will have to go to work. So I think the government is just sitting, waiting for these people to get tired and to leave.

COOPER: Professor Ajami, let me ask you this question. I don't have the facts on it, but my sense is -- and I don't like to verge into analysis, but I think you're better at that and more comfortable with it.

My sense is that, do you believe the pro-Mubarak mobs, protesters, whatever you want to call them, who went and attacked was an effort by the state to essentially try to push out the protesters without having their fingerprints anywhere near it, and then -- and they were surprised or maybe it was a test, but that the protesters battled back and held the square and therefore the state had to capitulate or change tactic?

AJAMI: Absolutely. I think you're absolutely on the mark.

I mean, in fact, for this probings that have been going on, you can do this with goons, you can do this with secret service people, you can do this with plainclothes policemen. But for the big -- for the big crackdown, you have to do it and you need the army to do that kind of crackdown.

But there's no doubt they're testing the courage of these protesters, because, fundamentally, I believe, and I have believed throughout this story, that Hosni Mubarak never took these people seriously. He thought they would scurry for cover. He thought they could intimidate them. He thought that they could frighten them.

And I think in many ways, Mubarak has in him something of Ahmadinejad. I mean, the idea would be that you would something of a crackdown akin to what the Iranian regime did in 2009.

But Egypt is not Iran. The circumstances are different, and Egypt is under the gaze of the world, and, to a considerable extent, under the gaze of the United States. And I think there is enormous amount of American influence, not so much public diplomacy, what the president says, but behind the scenes, the message has gone out to the regime in Cairo and to Hosni Mubarak as to what the U.S. can and cannot bear.

COOPER: The state here, Ben, firmly denies that attacks on journalists have been in any way been coordinated by the state. And yet today, they seemed to suddenly, mysteriously across the board, in various parts of town, ease up somewhat, though some offices have been ransacked and as you said human rights workers have now been targeted. Is that just a coincidence?

WEDEMAN: No, I don't think it is. I think that they got so much bad press, because the world watched on live television as for 15 hours this onslaught occurred and the army just stood buy.

Today, nothing is going on. I think it's obvious. This is in some way directed by people within the government and the National Democratic Party, the ruling party. Can you find a direct link? Probably not. But it's there. It's there. There's no question. It doesn't rain one day and parched the next.

COOPER: I keep thinking what Dr. Ajami said several nights ago, when he said that Mubarak is using the playbook of Saddam Hussein. And I keep thinking, as I watch these events, that there is a playbook, and that they are kind of, OK, we will try not using the military, but we will try sending thugs to beat them up. And that doesn't work, they switch to something else.

WEDEMAN: It's a playbook not unique to either this place or Saddam Hussein's Iraq. They study it throughout the region.

COOPER: We're going to have a lot more from this region, more with Dr. Ajami and John King, Ben Wedeman.

Also, this video now that has surfaced on YouTube causing a lot of consternation in many different circles, a white van, diplomatic van, it appears -- the U.S. government saying these vans were stolen. We will explain the video and what is being said about it.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GORANI: You have these roadblocks that are set up by just ordinary citizens, some of these neighborhood patrols, and are patrolling areas in and out of key positions in the city. Cairo looks nothing like it did a month ago, I can tell you that. Getting from one place to another is really quite an experience.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Every few hours, Cairo seems to change in these last several days.

A video has surfaced on YouTube that is causing a lot of consternation in diplomatic circles and also among those who see it. It's spreading a lot of rumors and stories. So, we're trying to separate the facts from -- from -- from the -- the fiction and from the rumors.

I want to warn you, the video is disturbing. Now, this is different than the video -- two of the other videos you've seen of vehicles careening through the streets. This is a video which was reportedly, according to the posting on YouTube, taken on January 28, which was last Friday, a day of pandemonium, a day of violence in this city, where the police were still involved. There was widespread, basically, pandemonium in many parts of the city. Take a look at the video. Then I'll tell you what -- what you may be looking at.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

(SHOUTING)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Now, that appears to be a white diplomatic vehicle, the kind used by the U.S. government here to move diplomats around. What the U.S. government is now saying about this video, as we watch it again and again -- it is disturbing, I know that -- is that -- that on that day, on January 28, they had a number of their vehicles, of their diplomatic vehicles stolen, and that they have been receiving reports that they were used in criminal activities and involved in incidents like the one that appears in this video.

We obviously cannot independently confirm that or verify it, but I was talking to Ben Wedeman about it, and that again, that is on the day that there was widespread violence. Ben Wedeman is reporting that the embassy was virtually in lockdown very early on, on that day.

So the idea that there would have been U.S. diplomats driving around in diplomatic vehicles doesn't really seem to make any sense. So it seems to jive with what the U.S. government and the U.S. government is saying about these vehicles having been stolen.

That's really all the information that we have on the video. But it's certainly adding -- just one more of the videos. And as you can imagine, now that the Internet is back up in this country, you can imagine everybody here has been recording this revolution on cell- phone cameras. And we're probably going to be seeing more and more disturbing videos over the next -- over the next several days and/or weeks.

I'm joined by Jill Dougherty in Washington, the foreign affairs correspondent.

Jill, how concerned is the U.S. about the emergence of this video?

JILL DOUGHERTY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, they're worried, Anderson, that it can spark some anti-American sentiment. There's no question. Because it's out on YouTube. It's out on other sites. It's being played on television stations.

And the one thing they say is our personnel, the U.S. personnel from the embassy, was definitely not involved. And you know, look at the way it was shot, too. It's very difficult to tell exactly, because it's kind of coming from above, an aerial shot. You really can't look in there and see who is in that vehicle. So it's pretty tough. But they say definitely no embassy personnel in that.

COOPER: Right. It's also not a situation where there were necessarily pro-Mubarak demonstrators. You know, now there are places where you drive through where you get attacked by pro-Mubarak demonstrators and, you know, some vehicles would naturally want to just keep driving through as fast as they can to avoid being attacked. That's not the situation that occurred on January 28, and it's not the situation represented in that video. It certainly looks like a vehicle just careening either out of control or intentionally hitting -- steering toward some pedestrians, and then moving on.

Jill, let's talk about evacuations. I understand the U.S. government -- they stopped the U.S. government charters out of the airport, is that correct?

DOUGHERTY: They did, because there's really not much demand. So they stopped it for today, Friday. They could start it up again if there were demand. So they're monitoring it as we go along. But so far no -- no need for it. In fact, there are commercial flights, they say, that are going out with empty seats.

COOPER: Right. There's -- we've been looking. There's numerous commercial flights now. Some -- some get canceled, but a number of flights are taking off every day to various points, both to the United States and to points throughout Europe.

How many people have they evacuated in total so far, Jill? Do we know?

DOUGHERTY: Last we looked, it was 2,300 out of 3,000 who had asked for help. But it -- you know, it's not clear whether some of those, let's say the remaining 700 or so, got out on their own or couldn't get to the airport. It's not really that clear. But 2,300 so far. COOPER: Jill Dougherty, appreciate it. Thank you very much. Obviously, for many folks here, even getting to the airport is a -- is a concern, just trying to figure out how to avoid any checkpoints or avoid checkpoints that might be manned by -- by hostile forces.

Let's get a quick check of the news in a "360 News & Business Bulletin." Joe Johns has that -- Joe.

JOE JOHNS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, astronaut Mark Kelly, husband of Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, said today he will command NASA's upcoming shuttle flight in April. Kelly said his wife's extraordinary progress since she was shot in the head a month ago was a key factor in this decision.

Giffords is undergoing -- is undergoing intensive rehab in Houston.

A disappointing jobs report. The economy added just 36,000 jobs in January, short of expectations. Meantime, the unemployment rate unexpectedly fell to 9 percent.

Heading into Super Bowl Sunday weekend, sheets of ice and snow sliding off Cowboys Stadium caused minor injuries to several people. A deep freeze across Texas is causing major travel headaches for fans. Hundreds of flights were canceled in Dallas, but the forecast called for a high of 44 degrees on game day.

The game will be played indoors, but some fans are having a tough time just getting to Dallas due to the weather -- Anderson.

COOPER: Joe, thank you very much.

When we come back, we're going to talk to Christiane Amanpour from ABC News about her behind-the-scenes -- what happened when she went to the palace and talked to President Mubarak as well as the vice president. We'll talk to Christiane in just a moment. And our panel, Dr. Ajami, John King, Ben Wedeman, Hala Gorani, join me ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

WEDEMAN: At first, there was the day of rage. Then the One Million Egyptian March. And today is the Day of Departure or Farewell, where Egyptians say farewell to their president of 30 years, President Hosni Mubarak.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: That's Ben Wedeman reporting earlier today.

Our friend and former colleague, Christiane Amanpour, is also here reporting in Cairo for ABC News, doing the remarkable work that she always does. She has had interviews, off-camera interviews with President Hosni Mubarak, as well as an on-camera interview in English with the vice president, Omar Suleiman. I talked to Christiane a short time ago.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: You spent about 30 minutes with President Mubarak. You also interviewed the vice president, Suleiman. What did you make of them both?

CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, ABC NEWS: Well, look, I'd never met Vice President Suleiman. He's very well known to the west. He's well known to Israel. He has Israel property. He has never given an interview, particularly never given one to a foreign journalist.

COOPER: He ran the intelligence service?

AMANPOUR: Yes, he did. And he wanted to speak Arabic. I persuaded him to speak English. And he's obviously a very competent person, and he's somebody who has the trust of all these other officials around the world who he's dealt with.

I think they're putting their faith in him being a transitional figure and getting through this moment until their new election.

COOPER: But you talked to a lot of protestors, anti-Mubarak protestors, and they'll say, "Wait a minute. Is the guy who's basically been the right-hand man of Hosni Mubarak, who has been running his secret intelligence..."

AMANPOUR: Yes.

COOPER: "... is that really the man to transition to power?"

AMANPOUR: Well, a lot of people don't like it whatsoever, as you both found out. But he's not personally tainted with corruption, according to all the stories about him.

And from what I've been told, and this is really critical. The constitution here, the one that doesn't allow any political parties and only allows one candidate, can only be amended, I've been told, as long as the president remains in office. If he leaves, then the speaker of the House becomes president and has to have elections in 60 days under the current constitution, which allows no more political parties. So they have to have Mubarak unless they amend the constitution.

COOPER: How was President Mubarak? How did he seem?

AMANPOUR: Look, it was extraordinary. I've been to the palace before, I've interviewed him before in different times. And when I went to the palace to interview the vice president, I basically said, "Is the president here?"

I was really very, very pleased, because it was a real sort of human moment. And with no cameras, as you know, you get a different sense from people. You get a different relationship with people. They talk to you in a different way. They don't have their game face on. And I felt like I sort of got to the heart of the embattled protagonist in this unfolding drama.

COOPER: Do you think -- do you think he will be willing to give up in the coming days?

AMANPOUR: I don't think in the coming days he'll do that willingly. Now I'm not saying he won't be pushed out, but I don't think he wants to do it willingly, because I do believe he sees himself as a patriot. He's a military man who does not see deserting as something honorable, which is how he would see it. He does not want to be President Ben Ali of Tunisia who was run out to Saudi Arabia. He said that he will not leave.

COOPER: Right. He told he wants to die on Egyptian soil.

AMANPOUR: Yes. And also, he doesn't want to be humiliated and have Egypt humiliated. This, remember, is the corner phone of the Arab world.

COOPER: Interesting that we heard from Mohammed ElBaradei in the last 24 hours, saying, "We're not looking to humiliate members of the former regime," perhaps sending a message.

AMANPOUR: That is an important message. And perhaps there's a struggle right now on how to do it in the most dignified fashion.

Clearly the west, even President Obama, while saying we want this transition to be rapid, look, they are really afraid of what will come next if there's a vacuum, because there is no obvious -- what they are really insisting on right now, the United States -- read behind the lines -- is an immediate process of getting the opposition party together and forming some kind of road map to go forward. That's what they really want Suleiman to do right now.

COOPER: Bottom line, today we saw the Egyptian military step in in a way we haven't seen for the last 48 hours. But you can look at it in the reverse and as testament to the fact that they could have stepped in 48 hours ago and prevented -- I mean, with some concertina wire and a few more troops, prevented this bloodshed that we have seen. The fact that they didn't, how do you read that?

AMANPOUR: I've been asking about that, and people have said, "Look, this is a military who's been forced to take on a police role." In any country, that is a very tough thing for a military to do.

In order not to have blood on their hands, I've been told they were trying to be neutral observers and trying to do their best to maintain law and order. Loved by the population, and they are. And in the square, as you've seen and I have, their chants of the army and the people are one.

COOPER: But -- but...

AMANPOUR: It was clear, as you point out, that the bloodshed has forced a change, switch from neutral gear to getting in between and forcing them apart and creating a bigger buffer zone without taking sides. COOPER: They searched anti-Mubarak supporters, and they've done that for days. They didn't search pro-Mubarak supporters when they arrived 48 hours ago with weapons, and they allowed them to get right up there. I find that troubling, that they didn't bother to search the pro-Mubarak side, and I see that as significant. But...

AMANPOUR: It is. I didn't see that, but it is significant, and this has been something that even officials -- Egyptian officials I've spoken to, the mayhem over the last 48 hours is something that has reflected very badly on Egypt, and they know that.

COOPER: There's nobody like you to have in the field. It's good to have you out here.

AMANPOUR: Good to be back.

COOPER: All right.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

KING: A fascinating conversation there. When we come back, we'll get back to Anderson Cooper in Cairo. His reporter's notebook on this fascinating day in the Egyptian political process.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: Friday prayers, as we saw them today, in Cairo. I'm back with the panel for some -- some thoughts on what happens next. Let's start with Dr. Ajami.

The weekend, what -- what are you going to be looking for over the next several days?

DR. FOUAD AJAMI, JOHNS HOPKINS: Well, I'm going to watch you and see what you do. And then I will analyze what you -- what you tell us and what you bring.

I think we still are in this kind of -- you know, we've entered this uncertainty, and as we've depicted it, they've taken measure of one another. The ruler has taken measure of his population. They're not going away; they're not being intimidated. They're not scurrying home.

And t his is very amazing for him, for this ruler. Because this is the quintessential pharaohic culture where the pharaoh is always obeyed. So they don't obey him, and he himself just digs in and waits to see what -- what life brings him then. And I think that this is the - the classic standoff between the autocrat and his rebellious subjects.

COOPER: John King, diplomatically, what are you going to be watching for?

KING: I'm going to be watching to see if the army continues to defend the protestors. The administration believes, Anderson -- and they're not certain about this, but they have a growing belief that President Mubarak is more isolated, that the army has made the decision it will not allow the violence to continue.

The question is, can there be a soft landing? He is a proud man. He is a stubborn man. As Professor Ajami has so well articulated how he wants to fight and stay.

The question is, can they, over the next several days to a week or so, nudge him into at least quasi retirement? Christiane made a very valid point about the constitutional changes. That has been the legalistic response, if you will. When they say Mubarak must go, the Mubarak people say he can't go or else we can't change the constitution.

Can they negotiate a soft landing that eases him from the picture over the next seven to 10 days? They think they're making some progress, Anderson, but they really -- they won't put that in concrete.

COOPER: Ivan Watson from Liberation Square tonight, as a reporter on the ground, what are you going to be looking for? What questions do you need answered over the next few days?

IVAN WATSON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, I think some of the opposition parties have said they will go into negotiations with the vice president starting tomorrow.

I think it will be interesting to watch how the youth here may respond to some of this. The Muslim Brotherhood says they won't talk. The youth here are walking around with their bandages like a show of courage, a source of pride, really. Can they, at any time in the future, negotiate with the government?

And what are the people from the National Democratic Party, those who are trying to defend the ancient regime, how are they going to respond? Could they throw a wrench in the works in certain-to-be turbulent days and weeks ahead?

COOPER: Ben?

WEDEMAN: I think what we have to look at is this movement, the demonstration, is it going to fizzle out? Reality is closing in: work, school. Things have to get back to normal.

And as Ivan mentioned, some of the opposition leaders are ready to open a dialogue with the government. So you wish the possibility that this movement is going to start to lose steam against a regime that will not lose steam. They are determined to stay in power, one way or the other.

COOPER: Hala?

HALA GORANI, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, I think what struck me talking to both the demonstrators and government officials and pro- Mubarak demonstrators, and they all say one thing, and that is they want the solution to this crisis be an Egyptian one. They don't want it to be dictated from the outside. So I'd be interested in knowing will pressure from the outside change the government and the leadership here, or will it refashion from the inside? And because this is such a reawakening of the political Arab street, I'll definitely be looking out for the regional ripple effects.

COOPER: We're -- actually, we're going to show you a reporter's notebook now. If we have time on the back, Dr. Ajami, I'd just like to ask you maybe one more question. But let's take a look at this reporter's notebook . We've had a still photographer from Getty Images traveling with us under some very trying circumstances over the last several days. His name is Kim Badawi. He took some of the images you're going to see. Some were taken by others. This is kind of a behind-the-scenes reporter's notebook of the last several days of what we've seen.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER (voice-over): Eleven days and counting. Hard to believe so much has changed in so sort a time.

In Tahrir Square, the liberated zone, the anti-Mubarak protestors will tell you fear has been defeated. There's no turning back.

When morning comes, you see the makeshift metal barricades, the hand-forged weapons, dug up rocks, bandaged bodies, they are still standing their ground. Fear has been defeated, they'll tell you. There's no turning back.

They bought this square with blood, paid for it with pain. Bruised, they're not broken. Battered, they've not bowed. Fear has been defeated, they'll tell you. There's no turning back.

Raised to keep silent, not criticize the state, beaten by cops, gassed and abused, turned on, attacked by fire-throwing thugs. They've stayed in the square, and today more kept on coming. Peacefully protesting, their lives on the line. Fear has been defeated. There's no turning back.

Some are Islamists, there's no doubt about that. But this goes beyond one religion or party. That's not why they're here. They speak about freedom and fairness and justice. They speak about the things all of us say that we want. You never really heard that in Egypt in the past, at least not openly called for in the streets. Fear has been defeated. There's no turning back.

All the reporters and camera people and producers have been working around the clock, trying to cover these fast-moving events. On the ground, among the anti-Mubarak demonstrators, it's easy to move around, talk to people. It's another story in pro-Mubarak crowds. Many of us have been attacked. It happens quickly, spirals out of control. All you can do is stay calm, try to escape. It's not a coincidence, I plan: it's a plan, clear as day. The people in power want to control what you see. We try to position ourselves in different spots. We find balconies that give a view of the battle. But if we can see them, they can see us. And sometimes you have to stop, close the curtains, move somewhere else. Fear has been defeated. There's no turning back.

We've all heard the roar of the crowd, the cries of the wounded. For me, the most haunting sound echoes in the night. Sticks and stones banging on barricades as these anti-Mubarak demonstrators wait for an attack that inevitably comes. It's a sound made by warriors all through the ages, a warning to those who have tried to defeat them. We are here, they're saying. We are strong. We are not giving up. Fear has been defeated. There's no turning back.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: Dr. Ajami, I find just the way you speak so lyrical. So just as we end this program, what have we seen today? I mean, do you think fear has been defeated here? Do you think there is no turning back? That's what the protestors said.

AJAMI: Anderson, there was enough lyricism in what I just listened to.

This has been the most humiliated of nations, Egypt. It has been a tormented country. Outsiders came and trampled upon it, and then its own sons rebelled and then eventually trampled upon their fellow citizens.

A military regime came and took power in 1952, some six decades ago, that promised equality. It promised justice. It promised a new dawn for the Egyptians.

And now, all of a sudden, some six decades later, Egyptians look at their life. All the pride of Egypt in many ways is to be contrasted with the poverty in Egypt. It's a poor country. Something like 20 percent of its population lives beneath the poverty line. The pride of Egypt is one thing, and the accomplishments of Egypt, the paltry accomplishments under this authoritarian regime.

So the Egyptians rose and dared dream of something different and something better. And the futures that are on offer, if you will, to the Egyptians are very simple. It's either a secular democracy, or a theocracy -- that's another choice -- or a military dictatorship.

And I think what the people of Egypt are telling us, what they have displayed in these 11, 12 days to us, is their desire to be rid of this inheritance of the past; the inheritance of fear and the inheritance of submission. They have surprised themselves, and they have surprised the world.

COOPER: Dr. Ajami, I appreciate you joining us tonight as you have all week, and John King, as well.

Ivan Watson, stay safe.

Ben Wedeman, Hala Gorani, thank you very much.

Our coverage continues.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)