egypt - Reuters - Janary 28 2011
White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs comments on the current situation in Egypt during his daily media briefing at the White House in Washington, January 28, 2011. Photo by Reuters
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The White House called for free and fair elections in Egypt on Monday, but stopped short of saying whether the U.S. believes President Hosni Mubarak should run in those contests.

White House spokesman Robert Gibbs dismissed Mubarak's move Monday to appoint a new government, saying the situation in Egypt calls for action, not appointments. Mubarak named a new government over the weekend in an apparent attempt to defuse the week-long political upheaval in his country.

"This is not about appointments, it's about actions," Gibbs said. "Obviously there is more work to be done ... The way Egypt looks and operates must change," Gibbs said.

He made a point to say that change in leadership in Egypt wasn't for the U.S. to determine.

Tens of thousands of demonstrators have flooded the streets of Egypt, calling for his ouster. The protesters have shown no sign of slowing down, saying they will continue to demonstrate until Mubarak, who has ruled the country for over three decades, leaves office.

Gibbs added during his press conference that the crisis in Egypt should be settled by meaningful talks among a broad cross-section of the country, and the United States is not taking sides between the people in the street and those in the government.

The U.S. embassy in Cairo has not been in contact with opposition leader Mohamed ElBaradei this week, Gibbs said. Egypt's government put ElBaradei on house arrest after he returned to the country amid the protests.

U.S. President Barack Obama's administration has called on Egypt to not use violence against the protesters but has been careful not to criticize Mubarak, an important U.S. ally in the region, too harshly.

Obama has voiced concerns to aides that any U.S. effort to insert itself into the situation could backfire.

U.S. officials would like to see credible presidential elections in September, an administration official said.

The problem for U.S. policymakers is who would replace Mubarak, a stalwart ally for 30 years. They fear the possibility of radical Muslims taking over in a country that is of paramount strategic importance.

Obama reviewed Egyptian strategy with national security aides and a group of outside analysts on Monday.

The crisis is taking its toll on oil markets.

Brent crude oil futures surged to e101 a barrel, a 28-month high, as anxieties rose that protests in Egypt could spark instability across the Middle East and disrupt oil shipments through the Suez Canal.

The Suez Canal in Egypt transports crude oil and liquefied natural gas that is bound to the U.S. market and other countries.

National security aides at the White House were monitoring the effect that the unrest and uncertainty in Egypt may have on oil and financial markets. Gibbs said no disruptions had been reported in the Suez Canal.