Obama speaks about situation in Egypt - Reuters - Jan. 28, 2011
U.S. President Barack Obama speaks about the situation in Egypt at the White House in Washington, January 28, 2011 Photo by Reuters
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The people of Egypt have spoken and the military must ensure a credible transition, United States President Barack Obama said on Friday in response to news that Hosni Mubarak resigned as president of Egypt.

He lauded the protesters that have taken to the streets in over two weeks of unabated demonstrations and riots which culminated on Friday with the resignation of Mubarak, who has ruled the country for over 30 years.

"The people of Egypt have spoken, their voices have been heard, and Egypt will never be the same," Obama said.

Obama called on the Egyptian military to ensure a credible transition. "That means protecting the rights of Egypt's citizens, lifting the emergency law, revising the constitution and other laws to make this change irreversible, and laying out a clear path to elections that are fair and free," the U.S. president said.

"The people of Egypt have spoken," Obama told reporters. "Egyptians have made it clear that nothing less than genuine democracy will carry the day."

He acknowledged that this was not the end, but just the beginning of Egypt's transition to democracy, saying, "There will be many difficult days ahead and many questions remain unanswered."

Though the U.S. role in Mubarak's resignation remained unclear, Mohamed Hussein Tantawi, head of the military council that took control on Friday, spoke with U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates by phone five times during the 18-day popular uprising, including as late as Thursday evening.

Earlier on Friday, the U.S. vice president hailed Mubarak's exit from power as a "pivotal moment" for the Middle East and insisted Egypt's democratic transition must be irreversible.

Joe Biden said, "The transition that's taking place must be an irreversible change and a negotiated path toward democracy."

"What is at stake in Egypt and across the Middle East is not just about Egypt alone," Biden told a college audience in Kentucky after Mubarak handed over power to Egypt's military.

Washington walked a fine line since the mass demonstrations erupted, endorsing the democratic aspirations of the protesters but trying not to openly abandon a long-time ally or encourage upheaval that could spill over into other parts of the oil-rich region.

Obama, who has repeatedly pressed for an orderly transition, now confronts the challenge of helping to ensure broad political reform in the Arab world's most populous country while keeping Islamists from ending up with enough power to undermine U.S. interests in the region.

He will face the test of keeping the power shift in Cairo from unnerving Middle East allies like Saudi Arabia and Israel or emboldening foes like Iran and al Qaeda.

White House spokesman Robert Gibbs touched on the issue of Israel's relationship with Egypt during a press conference held after Obama's speech on Friday.

"It is important that the next Egyptian government recognize the agreement with Israel," Gibbs said referring to the peace treaty that the two countries signed in 1979.