Hero's welcome for ElBaradei

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The Independent Online

Hundreds of supporters greeted former UN nuclear chief Mohamed ElBaradei at the airport upon return to his native Egypt yesterday, singing songs, chanting pro-reform slogans and calling on the Nobel prize winner to run for president.

ElBaradei touched down in Cairo for the first time since leaving his post as head of the Vienna-based International Atomic Energy Association after 12 years in office. Supporters hope to use the publicity to boost speculation about his potential candidacy for 2011 elections. Egypt has been ruled for nearly 30 years by Hosni Mubarak, who appears to be trying to set up a political dynasty by grooming his son to succeed him.

Untouched by the corruption tainting much of Egypt's regime, ElBaradei, who won the 2005 Nobel Peace Prize, could be the most credible opposition leader to emerge for 2011 presidential elections. Many Egyptians hope ElBaradei's international standing will make it difficult for the government to persecute him.

The crowd at the airport – made up of actors, intellectuals, opposition leaders among others – broke into loud applause when word of ElBaradei's arrival spread, and then sang the Egyptian national anthem.

Many supporters carried large posters with ElBaradei's face and the word "YES!" signifying their desire to see him run for president.

ElBaradei tried to leave the VIP lounge at the airport shortly after his arrival, but the sheer size of the crowd blocked the exit of the lounge..

Despite the enthusiasm his return has sparked, ElBaradei has been guarded about a potential presidential run. In an open letter, he said he would only join the race if guaranteed that elections would be free, supervised by the judiciary and monitored by internationally.