Obama: Egypt Must Begin Peaceful Transition Into Democracy Now

Speaking hours after Egyptian President Mubarak vowed to step down later this year, U.S. President says world is inspired by the passion and integrity of the Egyptian people.

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Egypt must transition peacefully into a democratic regime and it must do so now, U.S. President Barack Obama said on Tuesday, hours after beleaguered Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak announced he would retire only later in the year.

U.S. President Barack Obama at the White House, Feb. 1, 2011. Credit: Reuters

Mubarak announced earlier Tuesday that he would not run in the next elections in the country, following mass protests that have been ravaging the country for the past week.

In a televised speech, Mubarak announced that he would step down at the next elections scheduled for September, saying he "did not have the intention of running in the next election and wanted to spend my life trying to serve the people," adding that he wanted "to finish my role while Egypt is at peace."

The next presidential election is scheduled for September, but in his address, Mubarak pressed his cabinet to speed up elections.

Commenting on the ongoing protest in Egypt as well as Mubarak's vow to retire later in the year, Obama indicated later Tuesday that Washington would like to see Egypt transition into democracy as soon as possible, saying that "what is clear, and what I indicated tonight to President Mubarak, is my belief that an orderly transition must be meaningful, it must be peaceful, and it must begin now."

Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., making a statement on the crisis in Egypt, Feb. 2, 2011.Credit: AP

"Furthermore, the process must include a broad spectrum of Egyptian voices in opposition parties," Obama said, adding that such a move "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."

Speaking of Mubarak's need to bow to the will of his people, the U.S. president said that all of us who are privileged to serve in positions of political power do so at the will of our people."

"Through thousands of years, Egypt has known many moments of transformation," Obama said, adding that "the voices of the Egyptian people tell us that this is one of those moments, this is one of those times."

Obama also commended the passion and the dignity that has been demonstrated by the people of Egypt," saying they served as "an inspiration to people around the world, including here in the United States, and to all those who believe in the inevitability of human freedom."

"To the people of Egypt, particularly the young people of Egypt, I want to be clear: We hear your voices. 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," the U.S. president said, indicating that he was "committed to a partnership between the United States and Egypt."

Also speaking of Mubarak's decision to step down on Tuesday, Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman John Kerry applauded the "important announcement by President Mubarak to bring his presidency to an end and pledge that free and fair elections will be held."

"I believe that President Mubarak should now work with the military and civil society to establish an interim caretaker government," Kerry said, expressing doubt, however, if Mubarak's declaration would appease the Egyptian masses.

It remains to be seen whether this is enough to satisfy the demands of the Egyptian people for change. We arrived at this point because millions of Egyptians spoke with one voice and exercised fundamental rights we Americans hold dear," Kerry said, adding that the Egyptian public "made it clear the future they want is one of greater democracy and greater economic opportunity."

Speaking more of the changes Egypt would have to undergo in the wake of the political earthquake that shook the Arab nation, Kerry said that much work remains to be done to turn this auspicious moment into lasting peace and prosperity."

"Egyptians must now prepare for elections and achieve a peaceful transition of power," the U.S. senator said, adding that he hoped the Egyptian army would "continue to show the restraint it has so admirably exercised these past days."

"And opposition leaders must come together to develop a process that will ensure that all of Egypts voices are heard," Kerry said, adding that, as friends of the Egyptian people, there is much that the United States can do as well. Egypt has been a close ally of the United States for many years, and it is my fervent hope that our relationship can grow stronger as the Egyptian people take control of their destiny.



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