US President Barak Obama 311 AP.
(photo credit: AP)
Stepping up pressure on a stalwart but flawed Middle Eastern ally, US
President Barack Obama said Friday night he had personally told Egypt's
long-time leader to take "concrete steps" to expand rights inside the
Arab nation and refrain from violence against protesters flooding
through the streets of Cairo and elsewhere.
"Surely, there will
be difficult days to come, but the United States will continue to stand
up for the rights of the Egyptian people and work with their government
in pursuit of a future that is more just, more free and more hopeful,"
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The conversation followed closely on a televised speech in which Mubarak,
in Cairo, announced he was sacking his government to form a new one
that would accelerate reforms. At the same time, he said, violence by
protesters would not be tolerated.
Earlier, the White House said
that the "legitimate grievances" of the Egyptian people must be
addressed immediately by the Egyptian government and violence is not the
White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said that "we're monitoring a very fluid situation."
said it was time for reform to come to Egypt. He reiterated calls for
restraint and said that the Pentagon has been in direct contact with the
Egyptian military to caution restraint.
The US is treading
carefully amid the threat to a stalwart US ally in the Arab world
considered a linchpin for American efforts to forge Middle East peace
and tamp down Islamic extremism.
Earlier Friday, US Secretary of
State Hillary Rodham Clinton also appealed for Egyptian authorities to
respect the rights of their citizens amid a crackdown on swelling
anti-government protests and heed demands for political and economic
Speaking as street demonstrations rocked Egypt's capital
despite a curfew, Clinton urged calm on both sides and said the
government must investigate and prosecute any allegations of brutality
by security forces against protesters. She also called on Egypt to
restore access to the Internet and social media sites that have been
are deeply concerned about the use of violence by Egyptian police and
security forces against protestors and we call on the Egyptian
government to do everything in its power to restrain the security
forces," Clinton told reporters at the State Department. "At the same
time, protesters should also refrain from violence and express
"We urge the Egyptian authorities to
allow peaceful protests and to reverse the unprecedented steps it has
taken to cut off communication," she said. "These protests underscore
that there are deep grievances within Egyptian society and the Egyptian
government needs to understand that violence will not make these
grievances go away."
Clinton said that reform "is absolutely
critical to the well-being of Egypt" and urged the longtime US ally to
"engage immediately" with opposition groups and others to enact broad
economic, political and social reforms. She said the Obama
administration had raised repeatedly with Egypt the "imperative for
reform and greater openness."
"The people of the Middle East, like people everywhere, are seeking to
contribute and have a role in the decisions that will shape their lives.
Leaders need to respond to these aspirations," Clinton said.
Other leaders have also expressed concern over developments in Egypt.
British Foreign Secretary William Hague on Friday called on Egyptian
leaders to "understand the grievances and deal with them in an
evolutionary way and by bringing necessary reforms," reported BBC.
Speaking at the World Economic Forum in Davos on Friday, German
Chancellor Angela Merkel also urged the Egyptian government to allow
Merkel told reporters that the stability of Egypt was "extremely important but not at the price of freedom of expression."
German Defence Minister Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg also spoke at the forum, saying he was
worried about the risk of an "infectious momentum" of unrest spreading
in the Middle East, Reuters quoted him as saying.
about the disruption of Internet and cell-phone data service in parts of
Egypt, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, also at Davos, said: "I
believe that one of the ground principles of democracy should be to
protect the freedom of speech of the people."
Ban said Middle
East leaders should view the protests as a chance to address the
"legitimate concerns" of their people and urged authorities to refrain
from violence against demonstrators.
"All concerned people or
leaders should ensure that the situation in that region, and
particularly now in Egypt, does not and should not lead to further
violence," Ban said.