The current revolt against President Hosni Mubarak in Egypt could cause a collapse of the economy, former United Nations secretary general Boutros Boutros Ghali has said.
"A country like Egypt which is facing a population explosion cannot withstand the current situation," said Boutros Ghali told Adnkronos International (AKI) in an interview.
A member of Egypt's minority Coptic Christian community and an academic, Boutros Ghali served as the sixth UN secretary general from 1992-1996 during the breakup of the former Yugoslavia, the Rwandan genocide and other world crises.
"The rift on the streets between those who were happy with the president's last speech (announcing he would not stand for re-election in September) and those who believe he should go now, risk sparking a devastating economic crisis," he said.
"The Egyptian public is unaware of the impact such a crisis will have over the next few months," he stressed.
Boutros Ghali warned that chaos could ensue in the country of 80.4 million people if Mubarak was forced out immediately.
"You can't effect a transition in 24 hours and at the same time avert the risk of uncontrollable chaos," he said.
Boutros Ghali said he would be prepared to act as a mediator between opposing forces in Egypt, provided he had permission from the national human rights commission which he heads.
"I am not the only person in Egypt who could play such a role," he noted.
He said he hoped a political solution would urgently be found to the current upheaval and stem the exodus of tourists and foreign investors from the Egypt.
Egypt lost at least a billion dollars in tourism in the nine days since the popular uprising began and one million tourists had left, the country's Vice President Omar Suleiman said Wednesday in an interview on Egyptian state television.
Boutros Ghali said the human rights commission has asked Mubarak and Suleiman to revoke Egypt's state of emergency, amend articles 76 and 77 of the constitution which deal with limits to presidential terms, and restrict the conditions for candidates to run for the presidency.
Other demands included allowing the judiciary to scrutinise contested results from the last parliamentary elections and "to completely restore access to the internet", he said.