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Obama to Mubarak: No violence, do reforms

U.S. President Barack Obama (R) meets President Mubarak of Egypt in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington on September 1, 2010. This is one of several meetings between the President and Middle East Leaders in advance of the opening of the first direct talks in two years between Israel and the Palestinian Authority scheduled to begin at the State Department in Washington, D.C. tomorrow. UPI/Ron Sachs/Pool
U.S. President Barack Obama (R) meets President Mubarak of Egypt in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington on September 1, 2010. This is one of several meetings between the President and Middle East Leaders in advance of the opening of the first direct talks in two years between Israel and the Palestinian Authority scheduled to begin at the State Department in Washington, D.C. tomorrow. UPI/Ron Sachs/Pool | License Photo

WASHINGTON, Jan. 28 (UPI) -- U.S. President Barack Obama Thursday urged Egypt not to use violence against anti-government protesters and to move forward with political and economic reforms.

Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak's government "has to be careful about not resorting to violence" but so do "the people on the street" who are angered by unemployment and repression and are calling for Mubarak's ouster, Obama said in a live online "town hall" with YouTube viewers Thursday, hours before an anticipated major new wave of demonstrations in Egypt Friday.

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"I've always said to (Mubarak) that making sure that they are moving forward on reform -- political reform, economic reform -- is absolutely critical to the long-term well-being of Egypt," Obama said. "And you can see these pent-up frustrations that are being displayed on the streets."

Obama used the question-and-answer session to answer YouTube viewers' most requested question by far -- legalizing marijuana.

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"Sir, do you think there will or should come a time for us to discuss the possibility of legalization, regulation and control of all drugs, thereby doing away with the violent criminal market as well as a major source of funding for international terrorism?" retired Medford, Mass., police officer MacKenzie Allen asked.

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"Well, I think this an entirely legitimate topic for debate," Obama said. "I am not in favor of legalization. I am a strong believer that we have to think more about drugs as a public-health problem. When you think about other damaging activities in our society -- smoking, drunk driving, making sure you're wearing seatbelts -- you know, typically we've made huge strides over the last 20, 30 years by changing people's attitudes.

"And on drugs, I think that a lot of times we have been so focused on arrests, incarceration, interdiction that we don't spend as much time thinking about how do we shrink demand," he said.

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The White House is looking "very carefully" at that, he said.

Turning to sports, Obama refused to pick a winner of the Feb. 6 Super Bowl contest between the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Green Bay Packers, saying with his hometown Chicago Bears out of the running, he would not take sides.

"I've got to stay absolutely neutral on this one, and may the best team win," he said.

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