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Opposition groups rally around Mohamed ElBaradei

The Egyptian government blocks Twitter after thousands of protesters took to the streets of Cairo to demand an end to the 30-year-rule of President Hosni Mubarak.

Last year, ElBaradei's National Coalition for Change collected a million signatures from people demanding a new constitution and free elections. After that, he was rarely seen in the country, as democracy activists struggled to keep their push to oust Mubarak alive amid challenges from security services.

During demonstrations last April at which protesters were beaten, ElBaradei tweeted from home about the police crackdown. "My role is not to run to every little demonstration around Cairo," he said at the time.

ElBaradei never necessarily wanted to run for president, people close to him say. Over the past year he positioned himself more as a thinker and a freedom advocate than a politician looking for votes. "I do not want to see the whole Egyptian people feel protected by my presence," he said in an interview in April.

As head of the U.N.'s nuclear watchdog agency, ElBaradei was a vocal critic of the Bush administration's assertions regarding Iraq's alleged weapons of mass destruction program in the run-up to the 2003 Iraq war. Subsequently, the Bush administration sought ways to oust him from his position. But he remained in charge of the agency until his retirement in November 2009.

On Sunday, he was once again critical of the United States, this time of President Obama's continued backing of the current regime.

"People expected the U.S. to be on the side of the people," ElBaradei told ABC's "This Week" on Sunday. "They need to let go of Mubarak."

Staff writer Karen DeYoung in Washington contributed to this report.

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