The rising voice of protest and suicides across North Africa is the start of a popular uprising, Egyptian opposition leader Mohamed ElBaradei said.

After more than 20 years abroad, the former International Atomic Energy Agency chief (and Nobel Peace laureate) had returned home to challenge President Hosni Mubarak's repressive 29-year rule. Although ElBaradei still hasn't even announced his candidacy, the internationally respected and domestically lauded reformer has been openly criticizing the Mubarak regime for months-first in Vienna, where he was based, and now from Egypt. ElBaradei's potential candidacy has galvanized the domestic opposition as the country prepares for presidential elections in September 2011.

Opponents of Egypt's long-running regime should be able to follow the lead set by the toppling of Tunisia's veteran president, leading opposition figure Mohamed ElBaradei said in comments released last Saturday.

If the Tunisians have done it, Egyptians should get there too, the former UN nuclear watchdog chief told Der Spiegel for an interview to be published on Monday.

ElBaradei called on Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak to enact sweeping reforms in the country or face a growing danger of unrest like the events unfolding in Tunisia, the Muslim Brotherhood noted on its official Ikhwanweb site.

ElBaradei said self-immolations spreading across North Africa are only the beginning of growing unrest. The Brotherhood, Egypt's largest opposition party, expressed similar sentiments, noting Egypt would head down the same road as Tunisia without government reform.

The international community condemned Cairo for its conduct during the last round of parliamentary elections that saw the ruling National Democratic Party of Mubarak sweep the polls. Washington this week, meanwhile, called on Tunisia to listen to the voice of the people and move forward with open elections.

The events in Tunisia are a cornerstone for the rest of the people of the Arab and Islamic world, the Brotherhood said in a statement posted on its website. It is a message to all the despotic leaders and the corrupt regimes that they are not safe and they are living on the tip of a volcano of people's anger and God's wrath.

The group also urged Egypt's government to fight graft and put corrupt officials on trial, and warned that if it does not move fast and shoulder responsibility to start a serious reform process, stability might not last for long.

The Muslim Brotherhood also called in its statement Wednesday for an end to Egypt's 30-year-old emergency law that bans political rallies. It also demanded sweeping constitutional amendments to allow free and fair presidential elections.

Egypt's opposition groups say the country's parliamentary elections late last year were fraudulent.

The Muslim Brotherhood and another party pulled out before the second round of voting, citing widespread vote rigging.

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