Thursday, February 3, 2011

U.S. Says Violence in Egypt Must Stop, Transition Must Begin

By Stephen KaufmanStaff Writer Washington

The White House strongly condemns "outrageous and deplorable violence" that has broken out in Cairo and other Egyptian cities and has renewed its call for political change to begin in the country.

"It is imperative that the violence that we're seeing stop and that the transition that was spoken about last night begin immediately," White House press secretary Robert Gibbs told reporters in Washington February 2.

According to press reports, anti-government protesters and armed supporters of President Hosni Mubarak have clashed, leaving hundreds wounded.

"If any of the violence is instigated by the government, it should stop immediately," Gibbs said.

The political unrest in Egypt will take some time to resolve, he said, and "regardless of the amount of that time, it is tremendously important that restraint and nonviolence carry the day during this important transition." Gibbs said the Obama administration has repeatedly told the Mubarak government that violence is unacceptable, and that President Obama "reiterated our strong call for nonviolence" during his call to Mubarak on February 1.

State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley said Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton gave newly appointed Vice President Omar Suleiman the same message in a February 2 phone call. Obama's conversation with Mubarak was candid, Gibbs said, and he told the Egyptian leader that the time for change had come.

"I do not think the president could have been clearer with the president of Egypt last night," Gibbs said. "The Egyptian people need to see change." Meaningful political transition "must include opposition voices and parties being involved in this process as we move toward free and fair elections," Gibbs said. Only the Egyptian people can determine when their demands have been met, he added. "Nobody in Washington will determine the range of freedom of assembly or freedom of speech for those in Tahrir Square. And I don't think anybody in Tahrir Square is looking for us to gauge what the fence posts are on those freedoms," Gibbs said.

But the Egyptian people do not want to see appointments or speeches, he continued. "They want to see concrete action by their government. And I think that that's what the world waits for."

The spokesman also said there is "no acceptable excuse" for the shutdown of Egypt's Internet, mobile phone and satellite communications. "Those are part of the basic human freedoms that people everywhere should enjoy," Gibbs said.

The Obama administration is continuing to respond to a fluid situation in Egypt, and "what we're watching is history being made," Gibbs said.

Looking ahead, the Obama administration wants to have a "continued stable partnership" with the Egyptian people and expects that "whatever government comes next, that government respect the treaties that ... the previous Egyptian governments have entered into."

The United States has important relationships with Egypt and other countries throughout the Middle East, and "we seek to engage all of those entities in bringing about comprehensive peace to the region," Gibbs said.

"That outlives any particular administration, and I think that's what people throughout the world expect to see," he said.

(published by the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site: