Obama and Egypt's Mubarak discuss Tunisia and Lebanon

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Barack Obama spoke with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak on Tuesday about the U.S. desire for calm in Tunisia and thanked him for Egypt’s support for a U.N.-backed tribunal set up to try the assassins of Lebanese statesman Rafik al-Hariri.

Tunisian President Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali fled to Saudi Arabia on January 14 after the worst unrest of his two decades in power. The country has been in turmoil as its caretaker prime minister tries to assemble a national unity cabinet.

“The President ... shared with President Mubarak that the United States is calling for calm and an end to violence, and for the interim government of Tunisia to uphold universal human rights and hold free and fair elections in order to meet the aspirations of the Tunisian people,” the White House said in a statement.

The uprising in Tunisia has shaken the image of the military-backed governments of long-term Arab rulers as immune to popular discontent and grievances.

Mubarak, 82, has himself been in power for almost 30 years and is widely expected to stand again in a September election, although he has yet to say whether he will seek a sixth term.

Lebanon is also facing a political crisis after a U.N.-backed tribunal issued a confidential draft indictment in the 2005 killing of Hariri. A government headed by his son was brought down last week over the issue.

Obama thanked Mubarak for Egyptian support of the tribunal, “which is attempting to end the era of impunity for political assassination in Lebanon and achieve justice for the Lebanese people,” the White House said.

Obama and Mubarak also discussed ways to advance peace between the Israelis and Palestinians.

And Obama extended his personal condolences to Mubarak and the Egyptian people for a bombing attack on January 1 on a Coptic Christian church in Alexandria. He urged all sides to ease tensions and work toward improved relations among all religions.

Editing by Eric Walsh