Egypt's Ambassador to India, Khaled El Bakly, on Monday acknowledged that widespread corruption over the years and spiralling food prices had contributed to the recent protests that have rocked Egypt.

However, the Ambassador said that it would be unwise to point fingers at any one individual for the growing unrest.

Speaking to The Hindu at the Egyptian embassy here, Mr. El Bakly remarked that the immediate catalyst for the uprising in Egypt were events in Tunisia that led to the overthrow of the Ben Ali regime. On the other hand, “the government is not one person”, he said, referring to President Hosni Mubarak.

The Ambassador conceded that the protesters were clamouring for political and economic reform, but declined to comment on the broad contours of the change needed.

The opposition did not have any political backing, he claimed, adding that reports of Dr. Mohammed ElBaradei having received the support of the Muslim Brotherhood were unconfirmed.

Mr. El Bakly was confident that Egypt being a “country of institutions” would be able to withstand the present crisis. When asked about the sudden volte face by the United States in pressing for reform after decades of support to the Mubarak regime, he replied that it is the Egyptian people and not the U.S. which would determine the country's future.

He reserved his sternest remarks for the media, especially for Al Jazeera, observing that news coverage seemed to be deliberately aimed at fueling the protests. Internet and social media tools like Twitter were blocked to prevent “biased reportage”, he claimed.

However, Mr. El Bakly admitted that the status quo was definitely not an option and quick solutions must be sought to remedy the situation.

Changes were already underway, he said, and corrupt officials were being removed from office.

The Cabinet had ‘resigned' and a new Vice-President had been appointed. All these were steps in the right direction, and the government would gradually have to adjust to what its people wanted. But will that result in the overthrow of the Mubarak regime? The Ambassador was not inclined to comment, but said that the wishes of the Egyptian people must be respected, whatever they might be.

Likening the situation to the spread of a virus, he said that conditions were around to “catch the flu”.

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