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Revolution in Egypt

Aired February 12, 2011 - 20:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Fireworks over Cairo 's Tahrir Square. Tahrir meaning in Arabic liberation and amnesty after the revolution. Egyptians are certainly basking it. Also, a point of pride in what many are calling the new Egypt. Ordinary people are pitching in to clean up the enormous mess in the revolution's wake. Details of what may have been former President Hosni Mubarak's parting verbal shot at the United States and the Obama administration.

We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer. This is a special report, REVOLUTION IN EGYPT.

There are still certainly lots and lots of questions about what's going on in Egypt right now. There is no doubt that there's an enormous challenge ahead for the Egyptian people. Let's go straight to Cairo. CNNs Arwa Damon is standing by with more on this remarkable, remarkable day after the revolution. Arwa, what happened today?

ARWA DAMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, we saw massive crowds down in Tahrir Square again. Just looking at it from the outside, it would appear as if the people were demonstrating, but, instead, of course, they were celebrating, having achieved what so many are saying was unthinkable, inconceivable just three weeks ago.

This revolution that started out, as we have been reporting, on Facebook and Twitter, then taking on a life of its own, growing to such a degree where it truly did encompass people from all walks of Egyptian society, succeeding in bringing down one of the Middle East, what many people though was one of the Middle East's strongest dictators, President Hosni Mubarak. The crowds down today in Tahrir Square celebrating, cleaning up, repainting some parts, and also bringing in a flag in memory of those who died.

Many people very happy, euphoric even, but at the same time, there is a growing sense of anxiety because the future is just so uncertain. We're seeing a lot of debates springing out amongst people as to whether or not they should stay in Tahrir Square as some would like to do to make sure that the military does live up to its pledges to hand over to a civilian government, that it does, in fact, lift emergency law that we do se those constitutional amendments that so many are saying the country desperately needs while others, the majority saying, look, we've achieved it, we need to give the military a chance to do its job.

Our focus right now has to be getting the Egyptian economy up and running again. These unemployed people need to go back to work. Those who haven't been able to go back to work since these demonstrations began need to be doing that as well. The realization that this is such an exciting but at the same time equal if not more so sensitive time for Egypt, Wolf.

BLITZER: A real sensitive moment, Arwa, as you well know. If those -- the hardliners, let's say, the demonstrators, if they want to stay at Liberation Square or Tahrir Square, will the military let them stay or are they shall, we say, encouraging them to leave?

DAMON: That's a great question, Wolf. And really that is one that we're only going to be able to answer when we see what exactly does happen. The military, so far, has not made any moves to aggressively move in throughout this entire process and remove the demonstrators themselves, but at the same time, we have been hearing the military coming out really urging the citizens to work with them, also to work with the police force which many fear and loathe trying to bring this country together again because it has been ripped apart by what happened.

And there is a significant trust deficit between the people and the police, between the people and the government, and to a significantly lesser degree, between the people and the military. So, the military is not likely to want to jeopardize that the thinking amongst the demonstrators that we've been talking to. They've been saying, look, if a group does stay behind, it is likely to be smaller in number. They're going to continue to be peaceful.

Of course, the overarching issue in all of this to bring about some sort of a revolution is the problem that this is a largely leaderless revolution. Between the youth movements, there are various small pockets of groups forming each other, trying to get representation. Of course, there are all the other opposition groups as well. So, what is going to be really critical moving forward is to try to bring about some sense of unity instead of more divisions, Wolf.

BLITZER: Arwa Damon on the scene for us in Cairo. She's been doing an excellent job reporting as our entire team has done. Arwa, thanks so much.

There are still huge questions about Egypt's new military leadership and whether officials from the Mubarak government will continue to have power. I spoke earlier with the Egyptian ambassador to the United States, Sameh Shoukry, about that.


BLITZER: Let's talk about who's in charge right now. How does that work? The military is in charge, General Tantawi, the defense minister, is he in charge right now of the country?

SAMEH SHOUKRY, EGYPTIAN AMNBASSADOR TO U.S.: He is in charge by virtue of his chairmanship of the supreme military council. Today's communication indicates that the council had decided to maintain the existing government as a caretaker government to govern the normal affairs of state. BLITZER: So, what about the Vice President Omar Suleiman? What is his job?

SHOUKRY: I'm not aware of whether Suleiman has retained any position under the new structure. He was vice president to a resigning president. And I think his status, to me, at least at this moment, is unclear.

BLITZER: Is he still the head of -- you don't even know if he's the head of the foreign intelligence services of Egypt?

SHOUKRY: No. He relinquished that position when he was appointed vice president and then new person was appointed.

BLITZER: So, it's unclear what if any job he has. But you still report to the foreign minister, I assume?

SHOUKRY: Exactly.

BLITZER: Is there a new foreign minister? Is there an on old foreign minister? Mr. Gate was the foreign minister. Is he still the foreign minister?

SHOUKRY: Mr. Gate continues to be the foreign minister. As I mentioned, the council has decided to maintain the current government as a caretaker government until it appoints a new government. So, the current ministers will continue to operate and function.


BLITZER: Stand by for more of my interview with Ambassador Shoukry. That's coming up later this hour.

President Obama is warmly welcoming today's pledge by Egypt's new military rulers to carry out a Democratic transition and to honor Egypt's international commitments, including its peace treaty with Israel. The White House says the president made a number of phone calls to foreign leaders today to discuss developments in Egypt, including speaking to the king of Jordan and the prime ministers of Britain and Turkey.

Some angry criticism of President Obama's handling of the Egypt revolution from the ex-president of Egypt himself. We're talking about Hosni Mubarak. Brian Todd is looking into this part of the story for us. Some pretty amazing words from Mubarak on the eve of his stepping down.

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf. An extraordinary conversation we're learning about between Hosni Mubarak and a member of Israel's parliament during the very hours when Mubarak's fate was in the balance. This was on Thursday, the day before Mubarak resigned, the day he went on national TV to say he wasn't stepping down. I'm told by two Israeli officials that Mubarak had a telephone conversation that day with Benjamin Ben Eliezer, a former Israeli cabinet minister and current Member of Parliament who these officials say is close to Mubarak. The officials couldn't give details of that conversation, but Reuters quotes Ben Eliezer as saying in a televised interview that Mubarak had some very harsh words about the U.S. goverment. According to Ben Eliezer, Mubarak said, quote, "We see the Democracy the United States spearheaded in Iran and with Hamas, in Gaza, and that's the fate of the Middle East." Then Eliezer quote Mubarak as saying, this is reported by Reuters now, about the U.S. government, quote, "They may be talking about Democracy, but they don't know what they're talking about, and the result will be extremism and radical Islam."

We tried, but we're unable to reach Mr. Ben Eliezer to independently verify his take on what Mubarak said. The Egyptian ambassador to the United States, Sameh Shoukry told Wolf just a couple of hours ago that he does not have knowledge of that conversation. Wolf, it is extraordinary -- we are hearing that Ben Eliezer is close to Mubarak, not necessarily unusual, but he might have a conversation with him during those hours when it's so critical, just ingrate (ph) inside and maybe Mubarak's bitterness at the time.

BLITZER: Yes. And we're also told from this Israeli parliamentarian that Mubarak on that Thursday suggested he was ready to hunker down in Cairo.

TODD: He was defiant even until the end, maybe reflected in that speech. And, you know, we don't know if this conversation took place before or after that speech on Thursday when Mubarak gave no indication that he would step down, but Ben Eliezer quotes Mubarak, according to Reuters, is saying, quote, "I have been serving my country, Egypt, for 61 years. Do they want me to run away? I won't run away. Do they want to throw me out? I won't leave. If need be, I will be killed here."

You know, it's extraordinary to get some of that insight of these private conversations at those very tense moments. You saw how he was on that speech on Thursday. It was just surreal watching him up there, being that defiant.

BLITZER: We believe he's still in Sharm el-Sheikh, the resort at the southern tip of Sinai, the Red Sea, but we don't even know that for 100 percent.

TODD: For sure. We don't know where he's going.

BLITZER: Yes. All right. Thanks very much, Brian Todd reporting.

With successful uprisings in Tunisia and now in Egypt, the world is watching to see if other Arab countries follow suit. Jordan is the subject of a lot of speculation right now, but that country's foreign minister, Nasser Judeh, insists everything there is just fine. We spoke by phone just a little while ago.


VOICE OF NASSER JUDEH, JORDANIAN FOREIGN MINISTER: Jordan is Jordan. Egypt is Egypt. Tunisia is Tunisia. I'm watching all the media outlets, and I'm seeing the comparison, and I'm seeing the expectations, and one would confidently say that here in Jordan, we had demonstrations as we have every year when it comes to economic issues and governments adopting policies that are unpopular.

But in Jordan, we enjoy freedom of speech and freedom of expression. And yes, while we have economic hardship, we still have economic stability and political stability and political reform that is initiated by its majesty, the king, by the government, that the iterance (ph) of majesty's vision, so we're okay.


BLITZER: That's the foreign minister of Jordan, we spoke a little while ago.

When we come back, we're digging deeper into the U.S. intelligence community. Was there a failure? And what did the director of national intelligence, James Clapper, really mean when he said the Muslim brotherhood in Egypt is largely secular? Much more of our coverage right after this.


BLITZER: Certainly, still a carnival atmosphere in Tahrir Square in Cairo, but there's always the risk that Egypt's revolution could open the door to extremism. Listen to what the former CIA director, Michal Hayden, told CNN's Barbara Starr.


MICHAL HAYDEN, FORMER CIA DIRECTOR: It's very rare for revolutions as they progress to break towards the center. They generally break towards the extremes. And that's why this has to be so carefully managed and why the Egyptian military has to be generous in its approach to this kind of change. One danger, if this stalls, if people become frustrated and it breaks to the extremes, one of the extremes represented by the history, if not the present, are the Muslim brotherhood. And that would be very bad, I think, for Egypt, for the United States and for the region.


BLITZER: Let's bring in our national security contributor, Fran Townsend. She serves on the CIA's External Advisory Board. Fran, thanks very much for coming in. We heard the director of national intelligence, James Clapper, say he didn't necessarily think that the Muslim brotherhood would be such a threat. He also, at one point, said it was largely secular and that's causing a huge uproar that maybe he doesn't understand what's going on in Egypt.

FRANCES FRAGOS TOWNSEND, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY CONTRIBUTOR: Well, I mean, historically, as you just head from Mike Hayden, a former CIA director, the Muslim brotherhood is really the ideological predecessor to groups like al Qaeda, very extremist, very violent. After years of repossession under the government of Mubarak, they've been really decimated and have become more now in this revolution more politically involved. In fact, they've backed el-Baradei, the Nobel laureate, and his involvement in a new government --

BLITZER: The former head of International Atomic Energy Agency.

TOWNSEND: Exactly. And so, I think what you're hearing though and in Mike Hayden statement, and I happen to agree with Mike Hayden is that while they're weak now, you run the risk that extremists in the region will support them and will encourage them towards the fringe, towards the extreme Islamist fringe, and that would be horrible for the region.

And I have to say, Wolf, our allies in the region who have suffered under extremism and been battling it like Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates, they worry about the foothold of an extremist element inside Egypt like the Muslim brotherhood.

BLITZER: And that's why all of them reportedly were encouraging President Obama to not pressure Mubarak to step down so quickly. They thought that could undermine a smooth transition.

TOWNSEND: That's exactly right, Wolf. And so, our allies in the region are not happy with us for the way we handled it, and they worry very much about the potential at least for extremism.

BLITZER: Well, how much of a threat is the Muslim brotherhood in Egypt right now? The way it's formatted to the United States, shall we say?

TOWNSEND: Well, they are -- the Muslim brotherhood would never be regarded as a potential ally for the United States or pro-American policy. That said, they had been very weak, both politically, operationally. So, at the moment, I don't think people would regard them as a big threat -- direct threat to the United States. But, again, their allies in the extremist community throughout the region including people like al Qaeda and Hamas and others, there's the potential there.

And that's why somebody like Mike Hayden, a former CIA director, is saying, this has got to be very carefully managed, and our intelligence community is going to be key here in helping us get a sense about what direction this is going to go in.

BLITZER: I've somewhat studied Egypt for a long time. I suspect the Egyptian military leadership will keep a close eye on the Muslim brotherhood. They're not going to let them do things that the military doesn't want them to do, but that's just my assessment. Given some of the early statements, Hillary Clinton, the Secretary of State saying, it was a stable situation in Egypt. The vice president of the United States, Joe Biden, saying Mubarak was not a dictator.

Was there some sort of intelligence failure in the United States, intelligence community? You serve as an adviser, external advisory board. Was there an intelligence failure that the U.S. didn't grasp what was going on?

TOWNSEND: You know, Wolf, I think it's, right now, a little early to be able to figure that out. I suspect what's going on, though, I can't say directly, is that we're going to -- the intelligence community will do a self-assessment and look at what did they know and when did they know it? What judgments did they make based on what they knew and when were they right and wrong?

And often time, we go through that sort of process in the intelligence community to be better the next time. I'll tell you, the U.S. military and the Egyptian military have a very close relationship as does our intelligence community with the Egyptian intelligence community. And let's remember, Omar Suleiman who became the vice president under Mubarak was the head of their service. And so, there are --

BLITZER: He's now, for all practical purposes, gone.

TOWNSEND: That's right. But as this was developing, there were lots of close relationships. And so, the fact that we didn't had a clear and good grounding and understanding of what was happening ought to be concerning to the president, given the depth of our relationship there.

BLITZER: But you have good sources. The Saudi Arabia right now, King Abdullah and others, they're concerned.

TOWNSEND: Absolutely, they're concerned and rightly so. Given the history of the Muslim brotherhood, given what they've advocated in terms of violence and how they have infiltrated the neighboring countries historically to cause chaos and unrest, I don't blame the regional allies for being very concerned. What they see -- if you're sitting in the seat of our Arab allies, they see a 30-year ally of the United States who was cut loose, frankly, from their relationship with the U.S. because from their perspective, it was politically expedient for the U.S. to back the protesters and not Mubarak.

Forget whether or not we agree or disagree with that. That is the perspective of our allies. And we're going to have to deal with that going forward if they don't trust us to be loyal to them.

BLITZER: Fran Townsend served in the Bush administration as the Homeland Security adviser to President Bush, as well. Thanks very much for coming in. She's now a CNN contributor.

There's much more coming up. We're going back to Cairo. They're cleaning up Tahrir Square. We'll update you on that.

Egyptians are certainly celebrating in Cairo, but they're also celebrating around the world, including right here in Washington. Stand by. Our special report continues right after this.


BLITZER: Revolutions aren't just historic, they're also messy. CNN's Fred Pleitgen has more on the clean-up under way right now in Cairo's Tahrir Square.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: After the revolution, it's not all celebration for the people here. A lot of them have come together and are actually cleaning up the area at Tahrir Square which, of course, has seen a lot of violence. There's a lot of trash also there from people camping out the past days.

And now, they're cleaning up, and they say, they believe that because they've now taken back their country, they want to make their country clean and nice so that everyone can enjoy it and so that they, themselves, can be more proud of their revolution. So, this is the new Egypt right here?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, this is the new Egypt.

PLEITGEN: OK. And you're happy to do this? Because cleaning up is not everybody's --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I do this for my help -- I am very, very happy to do that. I live with my daughters and my wife, and we come here with my friends to do that.

PLEITGEN: To clean up?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: To rebuild the Egypt. To rebuild it.

PLEITGEN: And this is where it starts? Cleaning the streets is where it starts?


PLEITGEN: Thank you, sir.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You're welcome. You're welcome.

PLEITGEN: Looks like hard work. What are you doing?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We are cleaning the new Egypt, our new Egypt.

PLEITGEN: So, this is people taking control of their country and making it more beautiful. What does this symbolize, then?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This energy inside ourselves, and just you scratch a little piece and we all came out to say, this is the new Egypt. This is the new world, and I can swear and promise you, see Egypt after five years from now, just five years.

PLEITGEN (voice-over): There appear to be some scuffles between the military and some of the people here at some point, but the military tells us it was just a couple of folks that were causing trouble. They were arrested. The military says it has no issues with people staying here, however, it does want to open this area at some point so businesses can reopen on Tahrir Square.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (translator): It was three troublemakers. We arrested them, but we let them go again. PLEITGEN (on-camera): There's a big clean-up also going on here at the barricades that lead into Tahrir Square. And of course, these barricades are so symbolic of what was happening here over the past couple of days. This was the scene of some of the worst street fighting as pro-Mubarak demonstrators attacked the anti-Mubarak crowd. And of course, in the end, the anti-Mubarak demonstrators prevailed. Now, this area is getting cleaned up as well as we can see people who are taking control of their country and taking things into their own hands.

Fred Pleitgen, CNN, Cairo, Egypt.


BLITZER: The celebrations that started in Egypt spread around the world including right here in Washington, D.C. CNNs Sandra Endo has more on that -- Sandra.

SANDRA ENDO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, here outside the Egyptian embassy in Washington, D.C., it is a street party. People are here waving the Egyptian flag, dancing in the streets, playing music, and smiles all around. They're also holding up signs that say, Egypt's revolution inspires the world, and that's certainly the message they want to send out to the entire world watching all these events unfold.

And this man has been here for a couple of weeks now leading the protests which is now a celebration. Where were you when you heard the news and what went through your mind?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I was at the office. I just jumped, almost broke the door of the office. I was hysterical, ecstatic. The first thing that went through my mind, that those who have died did not die in vain. That was my main concern. I'm not talking about those who died in 13 days. I'm talking about those who have died in the past 30 years out of persecution, torture, have been killed, kidnapped by the state security police. So, finally, finally, we got our country back. 7,000 years of Egypt that is 7,000 years old was just reborn.

ENDO: What do you want to see next, though, for the country?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I want to see a peaceful transition to our Democracy. I don't care who's going to be there as long as it is who the people want. So, what we want is a Democratic system by which nobody can abuse their powers. That they will vote it. The minorities will give empower women. That's what I'm looking for. I'm looking for a Democratic system and for the people to actually make their voices heard.

ENDO: All right. Thank you so much and congratulations. You can see the dancing and the celebration continues. What's really striking, though, is the amount of young people who are out here celebrating their country's victory and all the hard work of so many protesters who have been calling for the resignation of Mubarak and now celebrating in the historic moment of the country -- Wolf?

BLITZER: Sandra, thanks very much. We're going to go back to Cairo and check in with Nic Robertson. He's on the scene for us on this, the day after the successful revolution.

Also, more of my interview with the Egyptian ambassador to the United States, Sameh Shoukry. That's coming up right here on our special report, REVOLUTION IN EGYPT.


BLITZER: Some protesters are staying put in Cairo's main square refusing to leave until the country is under civilian leadership instead of military rule. Here's our senior international correspondent, Nic Robertson, with the latest.

NIC ROBERTSON, SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, it's still carnival party atmosphere in Tahrir square, but there's a confusion about it as well. While we were down there watching the people come in and celebrate, young families bringing their young children in, really recognizing that this is a moment in history that they want their children to share, to remember, to be there to sort of feel the atmosphere of it, confusion because there were large groups walking away from the protests singing and chanting, "everyone should leave now," "everyone should leave now" signaling that they believe that they should recognize what the army is saying and let the army continue as it said it will with the transition to civilian rule. But on the time frame of letting this current government run through to the elections.

Those protesters who want to remain there, who are now celebrating but are threatened to remain on in the coming days, say they want this transition to civilian rule to happen very, very quickly. The army has said that their legitimate demands will be met. But this is what's happening. But it really is, at the moment, still a celebration. But you can see the confusion in all of this beginning to bubble up here, Wolf.

BLITZER: Is there a clear sense that the military is in charge, that the old political leadership effectively is gone? Is that what I'm hearing, I'm sensing, Nic?

ROBERTSON: I think the lack of voices that we're hearing, other than from the military at the moment, is a clear indication of that. There was a moment in Tahrir Square today when the army wanted to clear away some burnt-out military vehicles. They went to move them, they were part of barricades, and some of the demonstrators went to stop them. They didn't want that to happen.

The army called in additional soldiers to come in with sort of riot gear on. It got sense for a few minutes. A couple of people were led away. We understand they will be released later. But it gave an indication that the army isn't going to stand idly by, that they are going to try and sort of keep this under control and head in the direction they want to go in.

So at the moment, they're very much in control. But also you get the sense that they are letting this party play itself out to a degree, let everyone come and have their moment, come and have some fun, but perhaps try and regain some order as the numbers draw down, Wolf. BLITZER: A significant statement from the military leadership, one welcomed here in Washington, that they would honor -- Egypt would honor all of its international treaty obligations, including the peace treaty with Israel. That was certainly welcome news in Israel. What are they saying in Cairo about that?

ROBERTSON: Well, certainly it's recognized in Washington that many of the military chiefs here have spent time training and doing programs -- military programs inside the United States. So there's certainly a thorough understanding of the military here.

What they're saying will happen here and the indications that they're giving is that Israel -- rather, Egypt is going to recognize all its -- all its obligations, its international treaties and that nobody should expect any changes to come overnight. How that will look, perhaps in six or eight months' time, if there is a new democratically-elected political representation in this country, that may be something different. But the military is really offering internationally, as well as internally, continuity at the moment, Wolf.

BLITZER: All right. Nic, thank you. This is certainly an uncertain time for all Egyptians especially -- especially those who played some key roles in the Mubarak regime. I spoke a little bit earlier today with the Egyptian ambassador to the United States, Sameh Shoukry, and I asked him if the defense minister of Egypt right now is really the man in charge.


SAMEH SHOUKRY, EGYPTIAN AMBASSADOR TO U.S.: He is in charge by virtue of his chairmanship of the Supreme Military Council. Today's communication indicated that the council had decided to maintain the existing government to -- as a caretaker government to govern the normal affairs of state.

BLITZER: So what about the vice-president Omar Suleiman? What is his job?

SHOUKRY: I'm not aware of whether Mr. Suleiman has retained any position under the new structure. He was vice-president to a resigning president and I think his status, to me, at least at this moment, is unclear.

BLITZER: And is he still the head of the -- you don't even know if he's the head of the Foreign Intelligence Services of Egypt?

SHOUKRY: No, he relinquished that position when he was appointed vice-president so a new person was appointed.

BLITZER: So it's unclear what, if any, job he has. But you still report to the foreign minister, I assume.

SHOUKRY: Exactly.

BLITZER: Is there a new foreign minister? Is there an older foreign minister? Mr. Gheit was the foreign minister. Is he still the foreign minister?

SHOUKRY: Well, Mr. Gheit continues to be the foreign minister. As I mentioned, the council has decided to maintain the current government as a caretaker government until it appoints a new government. So the current ministers will continue to operate and function.

BLITZER: I guess the question is, how does all this affect an Egyptian ambassador to the United States, this tumultuous change that occurred in your country within 18 days? What's been the impact on you?

SHOUKRY: Well, we, of course, followed every minute, every second of what has been going on with a great deal of concern and pride to see the Egyptian people undertaking this protest movement in the way that they have, peacefully, indicating their desires, their aspirations. And this outcome, I think, is one that is -- is one that all Egyptians are proud of.

As for myself, our service is a political service. We have no political affiliations and we serve the people of Egypt -- I serve the people of Egypt and I serve of the pleasure of the current government.

BLITZER: You're a career diplomat.

SHOUKRY: Yes, I am.

BLITZER: So, presumably, you'll stay -- you'll serve whoever the new foreign administrator of Egypt is. I guess the main point right now is, you're happy that this revolution succeeded. Is that fair to say that?

SHOUKRY: All Egyptians, I think, have indicated their happiness that -- the Egyptian people have indicated what their desires and aspirations are and the people will be fine with the form of government that they accept.

BLITZER: Are you confident that the military rulers right now -- there, in fact, these military rulers will eventually lead the way to democracy, free and fair elections?

SHOUKRY: Well, certainly the (INAUDIBLE) has spoken, the population has spoken and they have spoken loud and clear. And the military and the second communicate and then the fourth communicate have made every indication that they are leading the country in accordance with the reform program that will return the rule and authority to a civilian and freely-elected government.

BLITZER: The former president of Egypt -- I never thought I'd be saying that -- the former president of Egypt, Hosni Mubarak, he's reported to have had a phone conversation with a former Israeli ambassador in Cairo the day before he stepped down saying the United States, the Obama administration was naive, they didn't understand who was behind these demonstrators, the Muslim Brotherhood or Iran or Hamas and that the U.S. would regret its support for the demonstrators.

I want you to react to that.

SHOUKRY: I have no particular knowledge of that conversation. I believe the American-Egyptian relationship is a deep and lasting one, one that both parties have extracted immense interest and benefits from. And I presume that these relations will continue to flourish.

BLITZER: I guess the question is, do you agree with Mubarak -- assuming the reports are accurate, do you agree with President Mubarak -- former President Mubarak that the U.S. is naive about the Muslim Brotherhood?

SHOUKRY: I believe that all factions in Egypt -- all political factions in Egypt are going to partake in developing the way forward and will do so under the supervision of this youth revolution that was widely supported and will take their lead from the electorate and from the people who will put them in office.

BLITZER: As you know, there a lot of speculation how much money the Mubarak family amassed over the years. Anything from $2 billion or $3 billion to $70 billion. I have no idea how much money they amassed. But we know the Swiss government froze all the bank accounts associated with the Mubarak family. Have you received instructions here in the United States to go after Mubarak money in private American banks?

SHOUKRY: We've received no instructions in that regard.

BLITZER: Do you know if he has amassed a lot of money here in the united states?

SHOUKRY: I have no idea whatsoever.

BLITZER: Tell me something that you're free to say today that you weren't free to say only a few days ago because there's a new freedom in Egypt right now. Give me an example of the freedom that you now have.

SHOUKRY: Well, I am free to express the position of my government without any form of restriction. I did that previously and I do that today.

BLITZER: You're free to criticize the Mubarak government?

SHOUKRY: I'm not in a position to criticize. I'm in a position to transmit the instructions of my government.

BLITZER: Describe the U.S./Egyptian relationship right now, because you deal with State Department officials, National Security Council officials. Describe that U.S./Egyptian connection.

SHOUKRY: It's a very deep and close connection. There's a high level of cooperation and coordination. There's a parallelism of interest related to regional (INAUDIBLE).

BLITZER: How will it be affected by this revolution? SHOUKRY: From everything that has been issued in terms of the president's statements and others, there is a recognition of the value of this revolution, of the value of Egypt's direction in the future and it is our hope that it will strengthen this relationship.

BLITZER: So you're pretty happy right now?

SHOUKRY: I am confident that the U.S./Egyptian relationship will continue to serve the interests of both countries.

BLITZER: And you're happy about what has happened in Egypt?

SHOUKRY: Every Egyptian is proud that the Egyptian people have taken their future into their own hands and have been able to forge it in a peaceful and mature manner.

BLITZER: Well, good luck to all the people of Egypt. Thank you, Mr. Ambassador. You've been very helpful to us over these past 18 days. I remember when you called in to help clarify what exactly was going on because that night that Mubarak spoke out and he didn't step down, we were all confused at what was happening. But the next day, we heard the Vice-President Suleiman give a one little sentence line, Mubarak is stepping down, and that was it. Did you ever think that would happen in your lifetime?

SHOUKRY: It's a remarkable development, one which is a matter of pride for Egypt and one which I'm sure will set Egypt on a road of great development.

BLITZER: Ambassador Shoukry, good luck.

SHOUKRY: Thank you.


BLITZER: When we come back, we're going to the pyramids right now. How are they reacting there? Tourism, a lifeline for Egypt. Much more of our special coverage right here. Revolution in Egypt coming up.


BLITZER: If you want to take the pulse of Egypt on this first day after the revolution, head to any of Cairo's ubiquitous coffee shops. Once again, here's CNN's Arwa Damon.


DAMON (voice-over): In the most traditional of Egyptian settings, there are already subtle changes. The state newspapers, for example, that used to propagate the government message now praise the revolution.

Conversations center around topics untouchable three weeks ago. No one was bold enough to openly express their dissatisfaction, says Hani (ph). At 61, he's the eldest among this group of friends. They would head to the demonstration site on a near daily basis and gather here afterwards to debate.

We will talk about corruption and the need to dissolve parliament completely and have free and fair elections, Hani says. The coffee shop is right in between Tahrir Square and state TV headquarters, where this man works as a studio director. I am happy and sad. I am sad because this is a president who carried us through wars and tough times, he explains.

He demonstrated against his own network on Friday, realizing he had to make a decision between right and wrong. His breaking point was the day that pro-Mubarak thugs stormed through the crowds on horse and camelback, unleashing violence that claimed hundreds of lives.

I am happy because we've been freed of things that were forcibly imposed on us, he says. The people were so repressed, it was as if we were buried alive. The bubble of oppression burst, they joke, and we don't know how to clean up the mess.

Egypt is like a newborn baby that needs to be protected, Mustafa (ph) adds. And then after a year or two, he can stand on his own. Everyone in society has to do their part.

Of course there is anxiety because we're in an unknown transition right now, he elaborates. Is this going to be for the better or what's going to happen? There's no anxiety or fear, he jumps in, disagreeing. The power is now with the military, and the military is a very respectable force. They have the ability to choose the ones who are intellectual, politicians who can inject the country with major change. The country has, without a doubt, already changed.

With so many unknown pieces thrown into the mix, no one is entirely sure how it's going to play out. Arwa Damon, CNN, Cairo.


BLITZER: Not everyone is happy with the upheaval of recent weeks, especially those who rely on the country's tourist industry which has come to a virtual standstill.

CNN's senior international correspondent Nic Robertson has more.

ROBERTSON: Wolf, down here in Tahrir Square, you could quite easily get the impression that the whole of Egypt is celebrating Hosni Mubarak's removal. But I went out to the pyramids earlier on today where so many tourists like to visit. I talked to some of the people who work out there. They don't quite share all this happiness.


ROBERTSON (voice-over): Close to Egypt's ancient pyramids, horses charge along the lanes, but not in celebration. The men here who make their living from tourists are angry. This man is one of them. President Mubarak stepped down yesterday. How do you feel about that?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Of course, you know, we feel bad.

ROBERTSON (on camera): Why bad?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Because, you know, this is the president of Egypt.

ROBERTSON (voice-over): These are the streets the horse and camel riders, who so dramatically attacked and terrorized protesters in Tahrir Square, came from.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If everyone looks at the picture again, try to look at the picture and think, how they go into the area, it's the people who go to kill, several (ph) people with horses, they went there to kill people, two millions. Think.

ROBERTSON: The violent images of that day helped scare the last of the dwindling tourists away. Now the president's gone, he is desperately trying to rebuff their tarnished image, get the tourists back.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's young boys, 17 years old and 18 years old, they want to say, we have hungry, we want to eat, we want to work. We don't think about politics here. We are not politic people. We think only about our political -- it's how much I get, how I make business, how I can work, how I can feed my family, how I can feed these horses.

ROBERTSON (on camera): A return of the tourists can't come fast enough here. Local businessmen say about 50,000 people are employed in the tourist industry and there are about 1,500 camels and 5,000 horses. And every day they're not working, they're getting hungrier.

(voice-over): Stables are full of idle horses, running up huge food bills. One horse, about $15 a day. Fifty in this stable alone. His fear? Tourists stay away if protests continue.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I would like to say to them, it's finished. You have done what you want, you get what you want. Sorry. It's not every day we start again to think about something else, something new. That's not the way.

ROBERTSON (on camera): But as we talk, a glimmer of better days ahead. Is this tourists?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is Egyptian.

ROBERTSON: So how do you feel seeing these tourists up here? It's good.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Of course, I feel happy and I hope that inside the country -- and this is the message also for inside Egypt, please, we try to help each other now. We would like to put our hands together and we start to help each other.

ROBERTSON (voice-over): Time to look forward and not back.


ROBERTSON: So what he's saying is he wants to put behind him all the violence that happened here over the past few weeks. It's not clear yet if this crowd here is quite of the same opinion -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Nic Robertson, thanks very much. Let's hope tourists start coming back in huge numbers to Egypt right now. They certainly need that business.

When we come back, some amazing photos, amazing photos from the revolution in Egypt.


BLITZER: CNN's Mary Snow has the story of one freelance photographer who got swept up in the drama of the revolution.

MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, unlike many photographers and journalists working for news organizations, Andrew Burton decided last week to get on a plane and travel to Egypt by himself.


SNOW (voice-over): It was February 2nd, the day pro-Mubarak supporters showed up in Tahrir square. Early on, they didn't seem to mind Andrew Burton's camera.

ANDREW BURTON, FREE PHOTOGRAPHER: They were very passionate about having their voices be heard.

SNOW: The freelance photograph had just arrived in Cairo. He says as the day wore on, he watched tensions escalate on TV and ventured back into the crowds.

It was this photograph that triggered an ugly turn. A man appeared to be writing over anti-Mubarak graffiti. And moments later, Burton, like many journalists that day, came under attack by pro-Mubarak supporters. It was anti-Mubarak protesters who came to his aid.

BURTON: Four or five men encircled me and kind of sheltered me while the mob kind of kicked and punched and hit us with sticks.

SNOW: In the crowds, there were army tanks and Burton was taken to one.

BURTON: I remember looking up and there was a soldier screaming, waving a pistol at the crowd. And, at that point, I was pulled into the tank by soldiers and kind of dumped head-first into this tank that was right outside Tahrir Square. I had some food with them. I think they probably made fun of me a bit. I was pretty shaken and scared at that point.

SNOW (on camera): What did they say to you?

BURTON: They asked me my name and what I was doing. I explained that I was a news photographer.

SNOW (voice-over): Hours later, a soldier helped him get back to his hotel. Two days later, Burton was back in Tahrir Square. This protester heads into the crowd carrying a sling, as doctors stood ready to treat the injured. But the intense clashes from earlier in the week weren't repeated. Protesters pray at the end of the day. By Sunday, Burton notes a different mood. Protesters rest inside makeshift tents. Vendors sell blankets. Christians and Muslims side by side and families gather.

BURTON: This is the father and the mother and the mom smiled at me with such a big smile and she said, this is a revolution baby.

SNOW: And this anti-Mubarak protesters wears a sign that reads "please go."


SNOW: And these images are really underscoring how quickly the situation on the ground is changing from day to day and some of the risks that journalists take every day to tell this story -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Mary Snow, thanks very much. And good luck to all the people of Egypt. Thanks very much for watching. I'm Wolf Blitzer. The news continues next on CNN.