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Egypt ex-spy chief to run for president

07,Apr,AFP

Egypt's former spy chief Omar Suleiman has decided to contest next month's presidential election, the official MENA news agency reported on Friday, two days after ruling himself out of the race. His change of mind came after a group of demonstrators gathered in a Cairo district to urge Suleiman, who served as Hosni Mubarak's vice president before the strongman's overthrow last year, to run.

"I was very moved by your strong stand," Abdullah said in a statement carried by MENA.

"The call you issued today was an order, and I am a soldier who has never in my life disobeyed an order ... I cannot but reply to the call and join the race despite the obstacles and difficulties," he said. The former military man who took over as intelligence chief in 1991 vowed to "make every effort ... to achieve the expected changes and complete the aims of the revolution, and live up to the hopes of the Egyptian people."

Suleiman had said on Wednesday that he would sit out the May 23-24 election because the nomination procedures were too tough."I tried until yesterday morning to overcome the obstacles related to the current situation and the administrative, financial and organisational demands of candidacy, but I found that was beyond my capability," he said.

Candidates bidding for the presidency need 30,000 signatures from people or the support of a party in parliament.The military says it will hand power to the winner by the end of June.

The front runners include Khairat el-Shater, a leader of the powerful Muslim Brotherhood, and former foreign minister and Arab League chief Amr Mussa.

Many in Egypt regard Suleiman as having formed part of the inner circle of Mubarak, who shortly before his fall named the intelligence supremo as vice president.

Born in 1936 to a well-off family in the southern town of Qena, Suleiman graduated from Cairo's military academy in 1955. Under Mubarak, Suleiman served as a negotiating partner for the United States, Israel and the Palestinians, orchestrating a series of short-lived truces.

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