News / Middle East

Obama Tells Mubarak that Transition 'Must Begin Now'

President Barack Obama speaks about the situation in Egypt Feb. 1, 2011.
President Barack Obama speaks about the situation in Egypt Feb. 1, 2011.

President Barack Obama has told Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak that the status quo is not sustainable, and that an orderly and peaceful transition must begin immediately. Mr. Obama described events in Egypt as the beginning of a new chapter in the history of a great country, and a longtime partner of the United States.

The president's statement came after a long day in which he and his security team monitored developments in Egypt, and watched President Mubarak's televised speech in the Situation Room.

In that address, President Mubarak announced he would not seek another term but declined to step down immediately.  

The president had a 30-minute telephone conversation with Mr. Mubarak after that address, the second known conversation between them in less than a week.

While he stopped short of calling for Mr. Mubarak to step down, Mr. Obama said the process of change needs to begin immediately. "After his speech tonight I spoke directly to President Mubarak.  He recognizes that the status quo is not sustainable and that a change must take place," he said.

Saying Egypt has known many moments of transformation in its thousands of years of history, President Obama said the voices of its people "tell us that this is one of those moments."

Egyptians, he said, must be the ones to chart the way forward. "It is not the role of any other country to determine Egypt's leaders.  Only the Egyptian people can do that.  What is clear, and what I indicated tonight to President Mubarak, is my believe that an orderly transition must be meaningful, it must peaceful, and it must begin now," he said.

Demonstrators in Egypt remained defiant after President Mubarak's address on Tuesday, with many calling for him to step down immediately and leave the country.

Mr. Obama said a new political process must include a broad spectrum of voices and opposition parties, lead to elections that are free and fair, and that result in a government "grounded in democratic principles and that is responsive to the aspirations of Egypt's people.

The president said the U.S. will continue to extend a hand of partnership to Egypt and its people as, in his words, they manage the aftermath of protests.

There will be difficult days ahead and questions about Egypt's future remain unanswered, he said, but added he is confident Egypt's people will find those answers. "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 better future for your children and your grandchildren," he said.

The president made a point in his remarks of commending Egypt's military for its "professionalism and patriotism" in allowing peaceful protests while protecting the Egyptian people. He urged the military to continue to ensure that this "time of change" is peaceful.

Mr. Obama said the United States continues to stand for respect for universal freedoms of assembly, speech and access to information, and will continue to stand up for democracy and universal rights he said those in Egypt and around the world deserve.

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