The Arab world's influential cleric Yusuf al-Qaradawi on Saturday urged Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak to step down for the good of the country, as his ouster was the only solution to Egypt's crisis.
The Sunni Muslim cleric, who holds Egyptian and Qatari nationalities, also encouraged Egyptians to keep up their peaceful protests demanding an end to Mubarak's three-decade rule, in an interview with Al-Jazeera television.
"President Mubarak ... I advise you to depart from Egypt ... There is no other solution to this problem but for Mubarak to go," Qaradawi said, accusing the veteran leader of having turned "blind, deaf and dumb."
The cleric, spiritual leader of Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood and longtime resident of Qatar, heads the International Union for Muslim Scholars.
"There is no staying longer, Mubarak, I advise you (to learn) the lesson of Zine El Abidine Ben Ali," he said, referring to Tunisia's deposed president who fled to Saudi Arabia.
"Go Mubarak, have mercy on this people and leave so as not to increase the destruction of Egypt," he added.
He told Egyptians to "continue their uprising" but cautioned against any "attack on state institutions." The uprising "must come through peaceful means," Qaradawi said.
The cleric unnerved Arab leaders earlier in January by sanctioning the popular revolt in Tunisia and hinting other governments in the region had starved and robbed their people.
Famous in the Middle East for his at times controversial fatwas, or religious edicts, the octogenarian Qaradawi has celebrity status in the Arab world thanks to his religious broadcasts on Al-Jazeera television.
He has in the past defended "violence carried out by certain Muslims."
The West accuses the cleric of supporting "terrorism" because he sanctioned Palestinian suicide attacks in Israel. Britain and the United States have refused to grant him entry visas.
"Some violence is legitimate in the eyes of both religion and law, such as resistance to the occupation in Palestine, Lebanon or in Iraq," Qaradawi said last September.
"We call for peace because our religion orders it, but if war is imposed on us we will take it to our hearts."