Meneiet Samannoud: Former UN nuclear watchdog chief Mohamed ElBaradei issued a public call for change in Egypt on Friday in defiance of an emergency law banning gatherings critical of the authorities.
Plain-clothes security officials stood by as ElBaradei, who has said he may run for president in an election due next year, urged around 700 people in a village in northeastern Eygpt to add their names to a petition calling for reform.
"The state may be a centralised power but the people are stronger," he told the crowd, part of which had come with him from the nearby provincial capital Mansoura in the Nile Delta.
The petition seeks constitutional change to make it easier for independents like ElBaradei to run for president after decades of autocratic rule under President Hosni Mubarak.
It also aims to revoke an Emergency Law that allows detention without charge and bans anti-government political activity like ElBaradei`s outdoor public speech and earlier visit to Mansoura, where up to 1,500 supporters greeted him.
"Once we gather as many names as possible we will put it forward and bring about real change," ElBaradei said.
Egyptian police often break up gatherings exceeding five people but Friday`s events went ahead without interruption.
"We received instructions from the Interior Ministry to allow the rally and gathering to go smoothly," said a security officer present at the speech who declined to be named.
Officials calculated that ElBaradei was unlikely to stage another such address so it was best not to interfere, he added.
Political analysts say the chances of securing constitutional change by next year are remote in the most populous Arab country, where Mubarak`s ruling National Democratic Party dominates political life.