Christiane Amanpour On Her Interview With Egyptian President Mubarak: ‘I call this the accidental interview borne of 20 years of experience in that region’

By Alex Weprin 

ABC News “This Week” anchor Christiane Amanpour has been leading the network’s coverage in Egypt this week, culminating in an exclusive interview with embattled Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak yesterday.

This morning, TVNewser spoke to Amanpour about how she ended up securing her “accidental interview” with  Mubarak, the challenges of being a foreign correspondent in Egypt ( “We take sensible precautions, we are not cowboys and yahoos”), and how she plans to cover the situation going forward.

TVNewser: How did you come to interview President Mubarak?

Christiane Amanpour: You, know it is not an interview. I think everybody needs to be clear about what happened. I went for an exclusive interview which was going to be in itself a big deal, because nobody had talked to the new Vice President, Omar Suleiman.

I call this the accidental interview born of 20 years of experience in that region. When I got to the palace, I asked to see the President, and they agreed. I was surprised and pleased when they took me to see him.

It wasn’t on camera, I was able to report what he told me, our conversation, and we were able to take still pictures.

What has been the feedback from your colleagues after you spoke to Mubarak? Everyone from Fox News to NBC has been citing your interview.

Absolutely, I know that it has been cited, and I am really proud and pleased and delighted that we were able to do this.

This is a person, at the center of this unfolding drama. And to be able to have used, I would say, 20 years of experience in this region, and having interviewed him before, I like to think that he agreed to see because he knew my work, knew me and decided to take that chance.

We have been hearing about a number of foreign journalists being detained or attacked, has it been a challenge for you and your crew?

Yes, it has been very difficult. Here, the winds and the tensions shift almost daily, sometimes hourly. It could be peaceful for one minute, one place, one day, and it could be chaotic and tense on another day or in another part of town or another part of the square.

Over the last two days there seems to have been a concerted effort to really crack down on journalists, and intimidate journalists, and to vent their anger on journalists by the pro-Mubarak, what I really do call mob, because they behave like a mob. On my way to interviewing the Vice President–at the time I thought that was the only one I was going to interview–we were surrounded, our three cars, we were surrounded and separated by an angry mob, who really kept us pinned in the street, surrounded. It must have been an hour before we were able to talk our way out of it.

Eventually a military person came up, and some military police, and we got out and got to the palace. It was very tense, but we stayed calm, we didn’t aggravate the situation, and we used again, the experience of being in these situations before.

Has it made you change your focus, or what you are going to do going forward? Are you going to lay low?

No. We take sensible precautions, we are not cowboys and yahoos. Those of us who have been doing this for a long time develop a sixth sense, you know when to go, you know when to slow, you know when to charge forward and you know when to pull back a bit.

Do you have any sense of how long this could go on for?

No, I don’t actually.

How long do you expect to stay in the region?

I am not sure, I am certainly doing my program, “This Week” from here on Sunday, and then we will monitor the situation. I will also be traveling around the region, looking at the fallout from Egypt.