Obama on Egypt: World witnessing history unfold

US president calls for "orderly and genuine" transition to democracy in Egypt amid claims that president Mubarak will step down.

Mubarak finger at Obama 311 AP (photo credit: AP)
Mubarak finger at Obama 311 AP
(photo credit: AP)
WASHINGTON – US President Barack Obama pledged US support Thursday for an “orderly and genuine transition to democracy in Egypt,” as he spoke of “witnessing history unfold” in Cairo.
Obama, appearing at a previously scheduled speech on the economy ahead of the expected resignation of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, described the hundreds of thousands of people gathered in the streets of Cairo as a new generation people on the streets “calling for change.”
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Going forward, he said, “We want all Egyptians to know America will continue to do everything that we can to support an orderly and genuine transition to democracy in Egypt.”
Hours earlier, Deputy Secretary of State Jim Steinberg told members of Congress that whatever new government emerges in Egypt, the US will work strenuously to make sure it isn’t overtaken by extremists who would threaten Israel’s security.
“By working for orderly transitions, we believe we can help ensure Israel’s long-term security, and we will be vigilant against attempts to hijack a legitimate impetus for domestic reform to advance extremism,” he said at a hearing called to assess administration policy on the Egypt crisis. “One constant in a changing region is our unwavering support for Israel’s security.”
Click here for full Jpost coverage of unrest in Egypt
Click here for full Jpost coverage of unrest in Egypt
He said that the US has also been communicating a very clear message that its expects the Egyptian-Israel peace treaty would be upheld regardless of who comes to power.
“The peace treaty between Israel and Egypt isn’t just in the interest of Israel but in the interest of Egypt and the region,” he said, “and therefore we would expect any government to honor its international commitments, to honor a treaty that was signed by that government, and to remain committed to it not just in letter but in spirit.”
Steinberg stressed, “This is a foundation for Egypt’s future success. The prospect of a conflict with Israel would serve no interest of Egypt’s.”
Steinberg was also questioned repeatedly about America’s stance toward the Muslim Brotherhood and what the US was doing to prevent the Islamic group from taking over the anticipated formation of a new government.
“What we’ve focused on is a set of principles that we’ve applied to what we expect to happen during this transition,” he told lawmakers on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, describing them as including the need for an inclusive process and building of institutions that protect the rights of minorities and dissenters.
“We want to make sure that the process is not hijacked by extremists, or those who do not equally believe in the open and tolerant and democratic process that we want,” he said. “The process itself is one for the Egyptian people to decide, but as we engage with whatever government emerges there we will be guided by those principles.”
His answer did not seem to satisfy all of those who were questioning him, as he was pressed on how the US would ensure those principles would be met.
In opening the hearing, HFAC Chairwoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen declared, “Engaging the Muslim Brotherhood must not be on the table.”