Egypt's former vice president and intelligence chief has said he would not attempt to "reinvent" the regime of Hosni Mubarak if he is elected president of Egypt.
Omar Suleiman, who is running in the presidential elections slated to begin on May 23, told state-owned Al-Akhbar newspaper on Monday that restoring security would be his top priority as Egypt's next leader.
In the interview, Suleiman lashed out at the Muslim Brotherhood and insisted his candidacy for the presidency would restore stability.
The Muslim Brotherhood, which dominates parliament and is heavily tipped for the presidency, has "lost a lot of its popularity", according to Suleiman.
"There has been a change on the Egyptian street. The practises of the Brotherhood and their monopolistic ways and unacceptable pronouncements have contributed to the change in public opinion," he said.
Suleiman also sought to distance himself from the old regime and said the uprising that forced Mubarak to step down nearly 14 months ago has created a "new reality" that cannot be reversed.
"The clock cannot be turned back and the revolution laid down a new reality that cannot be ignored," Suleiman said.
"And no one, no matter who he is, will be able to reinvent a regime that fell, folded and was rejected and revolted against."
Suleiman said he could "save the country from its chaos" by restoring security and attracting foreign investors to return to Egypt.
The former intelligence chief also projected himself as an opposition figure within the Mubarak regime, saying he had objected to many policies, laws and what transpired" in 2010 parliamentary elections, which were probably the most rigged vote since Egypt's 1953 overthrow of the monarchy.
"Those who think that my candidacy for president means reinventing the former regime must realize that being the head of the General Intelligence Agency or vice president for a few days does not mean that I was part of an institution against which people revolted," Suleiman said.
Suleiman's candidacy sets up a likely showdown in the elections between a key figure of the Mubarak regime and the Muslim Brotherhood, Egypt's most powerful political group, which is fielding its former deputy leader as candidate for president.
The Brotherhood's candidate for next month's polls, Khairat El-Shater, said Suleiman's candidacy could set off another round of huge street protests.
"The Egyptians did not make their sacrifices just for Mubarak's vice president to make a return," he told a news conference, referring to the hundreds of lives lost in the revolt.
"The candidacy of Omar Suleiman is a humiliation for the revolution," Shater said. "If there is an attempt to steal the revolution, we will go back into the streets" to demonstrate.
"We refuse this attempt to reproduce a modified version of the old regime which Mr Suleiman represents."
The likely confrontation in the elections between Suleiman and Shater will revive the enmity between Mubarak's regime and the Brotherhood, which had been banned for nearly six decades until the former president's ouster.
Mubarak had cracked down on the group during most of his years in power and Suleiman served as Mubarak's intelligence chief for close to 20 years.
He was appointed vice president during the 18-day uprising that toppled Mubarak in a last-gasp effort to save the regime.
Suleiman, 74, announced his candidacy on Friday and showed he still wields political clout by collecting around 72,000 signatures of eligible voters in one day, more than twice the 30,000 required. The deadline for submitting signatures was Sunday.
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|Timothy V. Gatto|
|William A. Cook|