Obama: World witnessing history in Egypt

Feb. 10, 2011 at 9:21 PM
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WASHINGTON, Feb. 10 (UPI) -- U.S. President Obama Thursday called for an end to emergency law in Egypt and for its leaders to quickly explain how they are moving the country to democracy.

Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, 82, delivered a speech in which he turned over some power but reiterated his intention not to step down before elections are held this fall. It had been widely speculated Mubarak was going to resign immediately and his failure to do so was met with great disappointment by the crowds of protesters packing Cairo's Tahrir Square.

"The Egyptian people have been told that there was a transition of authority, but it is not yet clear that this transition is immediate, meaningful or sufficient," Obama said in a statement released by the White House. "Too many Egyptians remain unconvinced that the government is serious about a genuine transition to democracy, and it is the responsibility of the government to speak clearly to the Egyptian people and the world.

"The Egyptian government must put forward a credible, concrete and unequivocal path toward genuine democracy, and they have not yet seized that opportunity.

"We believe that this transition must immediately demonstrate irreversible political change, and a negotiated path to democracy. To that end, we believe that the emergency law should be lifted."

He called for "meaningful negotiations with the broad opposition" to address the key questions confronting Egypt's future.

"We therefore urge the Egyptian government to move swiftly to explain the changes that have been made, and to spell out in clear and unambiguous language the step by step process that will lead to democracy and the representative government that the Egyptian people seek," Obama said.

With the fluid situation ripe for a return to violence that has periodically marred the demonstrations that started Jan. 25, Obama also called for "restraint by all parties."

"Violence must be forsaken," the U.S. president said. "It is imperative that the government not respond to the aspirations of their people with repression or brutality. The voices of the Egyptian people must be heard.

"We have seen young and old, rich and poor, Muslim and Christian join together, and earn the respect of the world through their non-violent calls for change. In that effort, young people have been at the forefront, and a new generation has emerged. They have made it clear that Egypt must reflect their hopes, fulfill their highest aspirations and tap their boundless potential. In these difficult times, I know that the Egyptian people will persevere, and they must know that they will continue to have a friend in the United States of America."

Earlier in the day, Obama said the world has a front-row seat to watch history being made in Egypt where the 30-year autocratic rule of the 82-year-old Mubarak is teetering.

"What is absolutely clear is that we are witnessing history unfold," Obama said of the anti-government protests. "People are calling for change."

People of all ages and walks of life have been involved in the protests, said Obama, who was in Michigan for a speech on U.S. broadband communication advancements.

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