Obama to Hosni Mubarak: Egypt Protests Must Bring Reform

Article excerpt

President Obama says the Egypt protests must be turned into a moment for reform. Egypt president Hosni Mubarak vowed to form a new government. But the US and Egyptians will want more.

As events in Egypt dominated world capitals and world markets Friday, the US was sending the government of President Hosni Mubarak two clear and stark messages: Get moving on reforms now if you want to survive, and whatever you do, do not react to your people's protests with a massive crackdown.

In remarks from the White House Friday night, President Obama said: "This moment of volatility has to be turned into a moment of promise."

The comments followed those of White House spokesman Robert Gibbs, who said at a press briefing earlier in the day: "We've reached a point where the grievances of the people have to be addressed. Have to. Must."

Beyond that, Mr. Gibbs said a review of more than $1 billion dollars in annual US aid to Egypt was under way, and he suggested that any government attempt to meet the turmoil with massive repression would have grave consequences. "We will be reviewing our assistance posture based on events that occur in the coming days," he said.

Still, the White House was categorical that - despite the cries in Egyptian streets for Mubarak's ouster - the US still believes the Mubarak government has an "opportunity" to hold on by proceeding swiftly to economic, political, and social reforms.

Late in the Egyptian night, President Mubarak, who before had been eerily absent, finally appeared on Egyptian national television, calling for "communication and talking" to solve the country's problems, but insisting that "fires and chaos" only threaten the country's security.

Mubarak announced he had demanded the resignation of his entire government, and pledged to name a new government Saturday.

Mubarak gave no suggestion that he considered his own three- decade reign to be under threat. That show of confidence had a certain echo in the White House, where officials were carefully rebuffing any suggestion that Mubarak should go the way of Tunisia's Zine El Abdine Ben Ali, who was forced out this month by massive protests after a 23-year reign.

Asked if Mubarak's time had already passed, Gibbs responded, "Absolutely not." What must be the focus now is dialogue and reform, he said, adding, "The time for that to happen has most certainly come. …