ElBaradei Authorized to Negotiate with Mubarak as Clinton Warns Egypt Must Transition to Democracy

Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood and other opposition groups have authorized leading dissident Mohammed ElBaradei to negotiate with embattled President Hosni Mubarak's regime, an Islamist leader said Sunday.

The National Coalition for Change, which groups several opposition movements including the banned Brotherhood around ElBaradei, has authorized the Nobel peace laureate with "negotiating with the authorities," Saad al-Katatni told AFP.

Meanwhile, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Sunday Washington expects that the protestsin Egypt will lead to free and fair elections as part of an "orderly" transition to "real democracy."

"I want the Egyptian people to have a chance to chart a new future," said Clinton as the Obama administration worked to get a handle on the fast-moving upheaval shaking the American ally.

Clinton was addressing the volatile situation in Egypt in back-to-back interviews on the five morning TV news shows before leaving on a trip to Haiti.

Asked if she thought longtime Mubarak had taken the necessary steps so far to hold on, Clinton said, "It's not a question of who retains power. ... It's how are we going to respond to the legitimate needs and grievances expressed by the Egyptian people and chart a new path. Clearly, the path that has been followed has not been one that has created that democratic future, that economic opportunity that people in the peaceful protests are seeking."

Mubarak appointed a vice president on Saturday for the first time in more than 30 years — the U.S. long has pressed for that and Clinton called it the "bare beginning of what needs to happen" — and has pledged to make reforms.

"We want to see free and fair elections and we expect that this will be one of the outcomes of what is going on" now, Clinton said.

She spoke of the need for "an orderly, peaceful transition to real democracy, not faux democracy, like the elections we saw in Iran two years ago."

"Real democracy," she said, doesn't mean one that lasts for six months before "evolving into essentially a military dictatorship."

Efforts by Mubarak to respond to the needs of the Egyptian people and move toward democracy are "in the best interest of everyone, including the current government," Clinton said.

"We are totally committed to working with the Egyptians that are interested in a true democracy," she said.

The State Department said Sunday that U.S. citizens in Egypt should consider leaving the country as soon as they can because of the spreading unrest.

Clinton appeared on "Fox News Sunday," NBC's "Meet the Press," CBS' "Face the Nation," CNN's "State of the Union" and ABC's "This Week."(AFP-AP)