U.S. says Egypt failing to meet protest concerns

WASHINGTON Wed Feb 9, 2011 6:28pm EST

President Barack Obama addresses the U.S. Chamber of Commerce in Washington, February 7, 2011. REUTERS/Jim Young

President Barack Obama addresses the U.S. Chamber of Commerce in Washington, February 7, 2011.

Credit: Reuters/Jim Young

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Egypt must do more to meet protesters' demands for political change, the United States said on Wednesday in a sharp escalation of rhetoric with one of its most important allies in the Middle East.

Washington is waiting for "real, concrete" moves to speed the transition, White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said after Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit suggested the United States was eager to impose its will on Cairo.

"What you see happening on the streets of Cairo is not all that surprising when you see the lack of steps that their government has taken to meet their concerns," Gibbs said.

Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak held meetings at the White House as Washington and another key ally weighed the impact of Egypt's crisis on stability in the Middle East.

Vice President Joe Biden on Tuesday set out steps Egypt must take in the face of unprecedented protests against President Hosni Mubarak, bluntly telling his government to stop harassing protesters and immediately repeal an emergency law allowing detention without charge.

The demands appeared aimed at raising pressure on Mubarak's handpicked vice president, Omar Suleiman, the former intelligence chief who is negotiating with opposition figures demanding Mubarak's immediate ouster.

"A lot has changed in Egypt, just within the period of the last week," Ben Rhodes, a deputy national security adviser, told journalists on a conference call. "We believe it can never go back to being the way it was."

Mubarak has given no indication he will step down, saying only that he would not run in September elections.

Aboul Gheit, in an interview with the PBS "NewsHour" program, said Biden's advice was "not at all" helpful and that he was amazed by the suggestion the emergency law should go.

"We have 17,000 prisoners loose in the streets, out of jails that have been destroyed. How can you ask me to sort of disband that emergency law while I'm in difficulty?" he said.

"Give me time, allow me to have control, to stabilize the nation, to stabilize the state, and then we would look into the issue.

Gibbs said Mubarak's administration appeared out of touch.

"I think it is clear that the Egyptian government is going to have to take some real, concrete steps in order to meet the threshold that the people of Egypt, that they represent, require from their government."

FEARS FOR PEACE PROCESS

The Obama administration has struggled to calibrate its message on Egypt, where the protests have raised fears of Islamist radicalization that could threaten Cairo's 1979 peace accord with Israel and its role in Middle East peace efforts.

Egypt's strategic importance to the United States includes its role as guardian of the Suez Canal, a route for oil imports to the West, and as a counterweight in the region to Iran.

"We're certainly mindful of the economic impact. We're certainly monitoring it closely," Rhodes said.

But Israel -- one of the biggest recipients of U.S. aid -- is also a factor. Israeli officials have said the turmoil in Egypt may require the Jewish state to "bolster its might."

Barak, in his first visit to Washington since the crisis erupted, was meeting Defense Secretary Robert Gates, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Thomas Donilon, President Barack Obama's national security adviser, the Israeli Embassy said.

With calls for an orderly transition, Washington hopes the $1.3 billion in annual aid it gives Egypt's military is a stabilizing factor. But the idea of putting conditions on that aid was a hot topic at a hearing in the U.S. House of Representatives on Wednesday.

Howard Berman, the top Democrat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said aid should continue "so long as the military is playing a constructive role in bringing about a democratic transition."

Elliott Abrams, a Middle East expert at the Council on Foreign Relations, said the aid should be conditional.

"Their conduct must determine how much aid they get -- and what kind," Abrams told the committee.

A new Reuters/Ipsos poll showed a majority of Americans believe the United States should be cautious about backing democracy in the Middle East because elections could lead to anti-U.S. Islamist governments.

(Additional reporting by John Whitesides, Susan Cornwell, Phil Stewart and Patricia Zengerle; Editing by John O'Callaghan and Eric Beech)

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Comments (18)
macira wrote:
So the Demonstrators want the US to cause the Egyptian Government to do certain things. The thing that comes to me from that is that we are somehow in charge. That being the case They(the Demonstrators) should react to whatever we say, like “stand down”. It is illogical to expect us to be in charge of one part of Egypt and not some other.
Point being that whatever we(the US) says should be of no consequence to the Government of Egypt, they are in charge, leave the US out of this. We have an interest in how Egypt deals with the other Countries of the world, but what they do internally is not our affair!

Feb 08, 2011 7:30pm EST  --  Report as abuse
IdPnSD wrote:
What USA is suggesting is required but they are only short term objectives. Unless Mubarak leaves now, nothing new will happen in Egypt. The power center must vanish and the new power must come. Only then something meaningful can happen.

The long term objective must focus to eliminate poverty and unemployment from Egypt and around the world. Here are the details of it.

If you could print money then you will not have any poverty. You can then print money, whenever you need, to buy whatever you want. You also do not have to give that money back to any one, because it is your money and you printed it. But you are not allowed to print.

Now, if your government could print money, then also there will be no poverty. The government will print money whenever it wants and will give to whoever it wants to. The government will also not have to give back the money to anyone, because it is the government’s money. But your government cannot also print money.

Only the central bank of your country can print money and give it to your government. The problem is, the central bank is a private bank, and it wants the money back from the government. That is how we generated all problems: deficit, tax, poverty, and unemployment. So change your constitution so that your government can print money.

You can see that the owners of central bank have created poverty all over the world by preventing the governments from printing money. No one knows that fact, not even your presidents. Very few economists even know that. Nobel Laureate in Economics, Milton Friedman, said – “One unsolved economic problem of the day is how to get rid of the Federal Reserve”. The Federal Reserve is the central bank of USA. Listen to Friedman.

Egyptians have started the revolution. This is the time the world understands the root cause of all problems, and help Egypt to implement the correct solution.

Feb 08, 2011 7:53pm EST  --  Report as abuse
pupdog wrote:
So Obama is demanding an end to an Egyptian law that allows detention without charge…

…on the eve of the American Congress extending the Patriot Act, which allows detention without charge.

Am I missing something here, slick?

Feb 08, 2011 7:58pm EST  --  Report as abuse
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