WASHINGTON – US President Barack Obama indicated over the weekend that initial
discussions over a transition process had begun to move forward in Egypt, as he
called on President Hosni Mubarak to listen to the people and consult with his
advisers about changing the current way of government.
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“Going back to the
old ways is not going to work. Suppression is not going to work. Engaging
in violence is not going to work,” Obama said during a press availability with
Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper on Friday.
“[Mubarak] needs to
listen to what’s being voiced by the Egyptian people and make a judgment about a
pathway forward that is orderly, but that is meaningful and
Obama described Mubarak as “proud, but he’s also a patriot,”
and challenged him by saying, “the key question he should be asking himself is,
how do I leave a legacy behind in which Egypt is able to get through this
transformative period? And my hope is, is that he will end up making the right
Obama noted that “some discussions have begun” and that the US
is “consulting widely with the international community to communicate our strong
belief that a successful and orderly transition must be
Obama did not more directly address reports that American
officials have been holding talks with their Egyptian counterparts to convince
Mubarak to step down and set up a transitional government, most likely headed by
newly appointed Vice President Omar Suleiman in his place.
House did announce, however, that Vice President Joe Biden had spoken to
Suleiman by phone on Thursday.
“Vice President Biden urged that credible,
inclusive negotiations begin immediately in order for Egypt to transition to a
democratic government that addresses the aspirations of the Egyptian people,”
the White House said in a statement after the call, noting that Biden also
repeated US calls for restraint and an end to intimidation of journalists and
human rights activists.
US officials have also been reaching out to
leaders of neighboring countries to bolster them as anti-government protests
spread around the Arab world and as many Arab leaders question the support of
America in light of US encouragement for a government transition.
himself spoke to Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh “to welcome the significant
reform measures” he announced Wednesday, according to a White House statement
following the conversation.
Saleh had announced that he would step down
when his term ended in 2013 and that neither he nor his son would run
“President Saleh now needs to follow up his pledge with concrete
actions,” the White House said. “President Obama asked that Yemeni security
forces show restraint and refrain from violence against Yemeni demonstrators who
are exercising their right to free association, assembly and speech.”
Jordan, King Abdullah also announced a series of reforms, including firing the
government, in light of popular unrest. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton spoke
to him Thursday and said the US looked forward to working with the new cabinet
and continued to value the USJordan relationship.
“He’s doing his best to
respond,” State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley said of Abdullah’s action in
the face of protests. “We appreciate the leadership he’s
Meanwhile, the US Congress became more vocal in its criticism of
Mubarak and clear that they believe he should leave.
unanimously passed a resolution late Thursday co-sponsored by Massachusetts
Democrat John Kerry and Arizona Republican John McCain calling for Mubarak to
“immediately begin an orderly and peaceful transition to a democratic political
system,” which they said should include transferring power to an interim
caretaker in coordination with opposition leaders, until elections are held
later this year.
The resolution also “underscores the vital importance of
any Egyptian Government continuing to fulfill its international obligations,
including its commitments under the Egypt-Israel Peace Treaty” and “expresses
deep concern over any organization that espouses an extremist ideology,
including the Muslim Brotherhood.”
In addition, New York Democratic Rep.
Gary Ackerman, one of the first members of Congress to call for Mubarak to go,
heightened his calls for a cutoff in US assistance to Egypt in light of recent
“I write to urge you to give the most serious consideration to
indefinitely suspending US assistance to Egypt,” Ackerman said in a letter to
Obama released Friday. “I believe it essential to our national security
interests that the world’s largest Arab state know that America’s commitment to
democracy is real, and that we will not continue to underwrite a regime
organizing violence against its own people.”
However, sources said that
at this point it was unlikely that aid to Egypt would be suspended, though
whatever money is granted is likely to be heavily conditioned.
on Capitol Hill, several members of Congress asked the German foreign minister
to close a German bank they charged helps Iran evade non-proliferation
The senators said that the government should take immediate
action against Europaisch-Iraniche Handelsbank, which has already been
designated by the United States.
“The threat of a nuclear armed Iran is
undeniable and we must make sanctions as strong as possible to deny Iran the
economic means to develop these weapons,” 11 senators wrote in a letter sent
“Europaisch-Iraniche Handelsbank must halt these practices or be