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Obama: Egypt Will Not Go Back to 'What it Was'

Obama: Egypt Will Not Go Back to 'What it Was'
Obama: Egypt Will Not Go Back to 'What it Was'

U.S. President Barack Obama says he believes Egypt will not go "back to what it was" now that pro-democracy demonstrators have made known their demands for free and fair elections through nearly two weeks of continuous street protests.

In an interview broadcast Sunday on U.S. television, Mr. Obama said only Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak knows how quickly he will leave office. He said the United States cannot forcefully dictate how quickly Mr. Mubarak steps down, but he hopes a representative government will soon emerge, one that the U.S. can work with as a partner.

Max Rodenbeck, Middle East Correspondent for The Economist, in Cairo, speaks with VOA's Susan Yackee:

The president said the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood - Egypt's largest and best organized opposition group - is only one of many political factions in the Arab country and that it does not have majority support. He acknowledged "some strains of their ideology" are anti-American.

Mr. Obama spoke in a live interview broadcast nationwide to a large audience - part of the Fox television network's coverage of the Super Bowl of American professional football. The championship match between the Green Bay Packers and Pittsburgh Steelers was expected to attract an audience of up to 100 million Americans.

The president said he was watching the game, but he would not pick sides, since his favorite team - the Chicago Bears - did not make it to the final.

The president rejected a characterization by The Wall Street Journal newspaper that he is left-wing. Mr. Obama said he lowered taxes during his first two years in office and that there is "nothing socialist" about his new health-care law.

Several lower-court judges have recently ruled the legislation is unconstitutional. The president noted, however, that 12 judges have ruled in favor of the law's constitutionality. The matter will likely be decided by the U.S. Supreme Court.

Mr. Obama said the worst part of his job is "being in a bubble" due to security concerns - not being able to engage in a spontaneous conversation with everyday people, and not being allowed to "go to the corner store."

The president was asked how he reacts to he people who say they hate him. Mr. Obama responded, "The people who dislike you, do not know you." He added that the American political process is so grueling that anyone who does become president "need[s] to [be able to take critical comments well].