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Middle East
Egypt opposition chief 'steps down'
Freed from jail, Ayman Nour says he will be just ordinary member of al-Ghad party.
Last Modified: 19 Feb 2009 22:28 GMT

Nour was sentenced to five years in prison in December 2005 on fraud charges [EPA]

Ayman Nour, the Egyptian opposition politician freed after serving three years in jail, has said he will not resume his post as leader of the al-Ghad party.

Speaking on Thursday one day after the Egyptian authorities released him from prison, Nour said: "I shall not be the head of the party. There is another chief of the party right now."

However, he vowed to continue "serving my country" as a party member.

The former opposition leader was released on Wednesday on grounds of ill health.

Nour, a liberal who came a distant second to Hosni Mubarak, the president, in Egypt's first multi-candidate presidential elections in 2005, was sentenced to five years in prison on forgery charges following the poll.

But Nour has always maintained the charges were politically motivated and designed to undermine his political rise.

He accused the Egyptian government of punishing him for daring to challenge Mubarak, who has ruled the most populous Arab country since 1981.

Deteriorating health

Egyptian authorities said they decided to release Nour, who is diabetic and has had heart problems, as his health was deteriorating.

IN VIDEO

Ayman Nour's release

His health conditions require extra care that cannot be provided behind bars, Gameela Ismail, his wife, said.

Nour told the Associated Press news agency from his Cairo home that he had not been notified of his release until a car came to pick him up at his prison and brought him home.

"Why they did this is unknown ... I am coming out with an open heart and am ready to work, and nothing has changed. A lot of things have been put on hold over the past years," he said.

Nour said that he planned to continue his work in politics through the opposition al-Ghad party, though Egyptian law prohibits him from seeking public office barring a presidential pardon.

"Thanks to God I am released," he said. "I am going to practice my role as a politician through the al-Ghad party."

Nour's imprisonment had been a sticking point in Egyptian-US relations for more than three years, and his sudden release may be interpreted as a concession aimed at improving ties with new administration of Barack Obama, the US president.

In August, Nour wrote a letter to then-presidential candidate Obama, urging him to help Arab reformers push for democracy in the Middle East.

In the letter, Nour said Obama "embodies the dreams of Arab reformers for democracy and change".

Source:
Agencies
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