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Caltech Professor May Become Egypt’s Next Leader

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Ahmed Zewail, Egypt-born US 1999 Nobel Chemistry laureate attends on press conference October 8, 2009 before the Nobel Laureates Seminar in Vienna. A series of annual seminars featuring Nobel Laureates takes place each year with a different thematic focus. (credit: SAMUEL KUBANI/AFP/Getty Images)

Ahmed Zewail, Egypt-born US 1999 Nobel Chemistry laureate attends on press conference October 8, 2009 before the Nobel Laureates Seminar in Vienna. A series of annual seminars featuring Nobel Laureates takes place each year with a different thematic focus. (credit: SAMUEL KUBANI/AFP/Getty Images)

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SAN MARINO (CBS) — A Caltech professor and Southern California resident, who is viewed as a celebrated native son in Egypt, arrived in Cairo and Sunday publicly called for President Hosni Mubarak to quit.

Ahmed Zewail, who won the 1999 Nobel Prize for Chemistry, is widely viewed in Egypt as either a potential president or high-ranking government minister. And as a close friend of President Barack Obama, his words Friday in Cairo bore great impact to millions of Egyptians who know of Zewail’s scientific fame, according to press reports there.

Zewail met with Egypt’s new vice president, Omar Suleiman, Friday in Cairo. He later held a news conference carried carried by Al Jazeera television and other outlets.

“I call on President Hosni Mubarak, leader of the largest country in the Middle East. to give up power to another leader and make history in the Middle East,” said Zewail.

“We are at a crossroads in Egypt and we need a clear vision,” said the 64-year-old resident of San Marino, just south of the Caltech campus in Pasadena.

Suleiman serves on President Barack Obama’s council on science and technology, and is a celebrated native son in Egypt. He has lived in the United States since the 1970s but travels home often, his wife Dema Zewail told the Pasadena Star-News.

She said her husband’s role in the saga is a call of duty “above and bigger than we need to respond to,” she told the newspaper. “You have to disassociate yourself from the person you are, living in Pasadena.”

(©2011 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. Wire services contributed to this report.)

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