Washington, Feb 2 (IANS) Hours after embattled Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak announced that he would not run for re-election in September, President Barack Obama warning of “difficult days ahead” said the transition in Egypt must begin now.
“We’ve borne witness to the beginning of new chapter in the history of a great country and a long-time partner of the United States,” Obama said in a brief statement to reporters at the White House less than three hours after Mubarak’s announcement in Cairo.
Obama pledged continuing US support for both a longtime ally and the aspirations of protesting Egyptians, whose eight days of growing demonstrations led to Mubarak’s dramatic announcement on state television.
Noting that he and Mubarak had just spoken by phone, Obama said Mubarak “recognizes that the status quo is not
sustainable and a change must take place.”
Repeating earlier calls for an orderly transition in Egypt from Mubarak’s nearly three decades of autocratic rule to a fully representative democracy, Obama said the transition “must be meaningful, it must be peaceful and it must begin now.”
“Furthermore, the process must include a broad spectrum of Egyptian voices and opposition parties,” Obama said.
“It should lead to elections that are free and fair. And it should result in a government that’s not only grounded in democratic principles but is also responsive to the aspirations of the Egyptian people.”
Mubarak’s announcement apparently came at the urging of Obama’s special envoy Frank Wisner, a former US Ambassador to Egypt and India.
Obama’s call to Mubarak was seen as a major shift in foreign policy regarding the main Arab ally of the United States and a vital partner in the Middle East peace process because of its 1978 treaty with Israel, CNN noted.
Obama’s statement avoided addressing the opposition demands for Mubarak’s immediate ouster, instead promising the demonstrators -particularly young Egyptians looking to the United States for support and leadership – that America supported their aspirations.
“We hear your voices,” Obama said. “I have an unyielding belief that you will determine your own destiny and seize the promise of a better future for your children and your grandchildren. And I say that as someone who is committed to a partnership between the United States and Egypt.
“There will be difficult days ahead,” Obama continued. “Many questions about Egypt’s future remain unanswered, but I am confident that the people of Egypt will find those answers.”