Clinton makes first post-Mubarak trip to Cairo

US secretary of state pledges support, funds for country in transition; "very exciting and moving for me to go to Tahrir Square," she says.

March 17, 2011 01:33
2 minute read.

Clinton in Egypt 311. (photo credit: Amr Nabil-Pool/Reuters)

WASHINGTON – US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton pledged US support for the transition to democracy in Egypt Wednesday as she visited the site of the uprising that drove longtime leader Hosni Mubarak from power.

“It was very exciting and moving for me to go to Tahrir Square and to have some sense of what those amazing days must have been like here in Cairo,” Clinton said soon after making an announced visit to the site where demonstrators had gathered to demand a more representative government.

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“The United States stands ready to help in every way possible to translate what happened in Tahrir Square into the new reality for Egypt.”

In addition to words of support, Clinton came to Egypt on her first trip since the change in government with financial aid to help shore up the Egyptian economy.

The package is set to include $60 million to help encourage investment and $80 million in insurance to back up Egyptian bank loans, as well as up to $2 billion in financing to small-scale businesses in Egypt and other Middle East countries from the Overseas Private Investment Corporation.

The US is hoping the transition won’t be hijacked by groups inimical to democracy and the United States, and Clinton noted in a press conference with Egyptian Foreign Minister Nabil al-Arabi Tuesday that “what happens next is as important as what came before.”

She also offered vocal support for the opposition that pushed out Mubarak.

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“This moment of history belongs to you,” she said. “This is your achievement, and you broke barriers and overcame obstacles to pursue the dream of democracy, and the United States and President Obama and I will stand with you as you make this journey.”

Robert Danin, former deputy assistant secretary of state for Near East Affairs, commented on the timing of Clinton’s visit, saying “It was very important that she go to the region to demonstrate... American leadership.”

Yet Aaron David Miller, a Middle East expert with the Woodrow Wilson Center for Public Policy, pointed out that flaring crises in Libya and Bahrain have highlighted the limitations of America’s ability to influence events in the region.

“We can provide moral support, and we can provide economic support,” Miller said, outlining the places America has the biggest role to play.

To that end, he praised the US commitment of aid to the Egyptian economy, particularly as the crowds that once gathered to demand governmental reform have tremendous expectations that their situation will now improve.

He described Clinton as walking a fine line between contributing to the contours of what happens, “but not giving the sense that we know best and are micro-managing.”

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