US sharpens criticism of Mubarak

2011-02-03 10:00

Washington - The United States sharpened its criticism of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak's teetering regime and expressed outrage over violence against protesters, declaring that its once-close partner should set a brisk course for new elections.

"Now means now," White House spokesperson Robert Gibbs said of Egypt's transition, repeating that continued aid to Egypt would be influenced by the government's response to the crisis.

With its allies across the Arab world shaken by popular anger, the call for an immediate end to three decades of authoritarian rule in Egypt coincided with American hopes that reforms in Jordan and Yemen could stave off similar revolt.

It represented something of a dual approach for the Obama administration, which has gradually shed its support for the 82-year-old Mubarak while looking to shore up its other Arab friends facing much of the same resentment if not yet imminent revolution.

"We want to see free, fair and credible elections," State Department spokesperson PJ Crowley said on Wednesday. He stressed that keeping presidential elections in September or advancing the timeframe was entirely up to Egyptians and that the process should not be so hasty that it leaves legitimate players out of the process, but he added, "the sooner that can happen, the better".

Outrageous and deplorable

A day after President Barack Obama pressed Mubarak to loosen his three-decade grip on power immediately, clashes between protesters and pro-government supporters further alienated Egypt's besieged government from its longtime patron, the United States.

The administration decried the fighting that started when several thousand Mubarak supporters, including some riding horses and camels and wielding whips, attacked anti-government protesters.

 Demonstrators dragged some of the attackers to the ground and beat them bloody, and the two sides rained stones and bottles down on each other.

Crowley called the assailants "thugs". Obama "found the images outrageous and deplorable", Gibbs said. The administration did not accuse Mubarak of orchestrating the clashes but said his government should show restraint.

"If any of the violence is instigated by the government it should stop immediately," Gibbs added.

Protesters claimed plainclothes police were among the attackers.

The comments from the two US spokesperson aimed to keep the pressure on Mubarak amid fears that the Egyptian government was trying to outlast the protesters' calls for democratic change with cosmetic changes that don't meet the need for real reform. They echoed Obama's call for change to "begin now" after Mubarak announced he would not run for re-election.

Political changeover

Meanwhile, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton demanded in a telephone conversation with Egypt's new vice president, Omar Suleiman, that the government investigate the events and bring those responsible to account. She condemned the violence, Crowley reported.

"We don't know who unleashed these thugs on the streets of Cairo," he said, but called it a clear attempt to silence Egyptian voices of dissent. "The use of violence to intimidate the Egyptian people must stop."

The day of strife in Egypt underscored the unsure post-Mubarak future for the country. His declaration not to run again was accompanied by plans to shepherd the political changeover from his 30-year reign.

But hundreds of thousands of Egyptians continued to demonstrate, determined to chase him from office.

Despite coming down increasingly harder in favour of the protesters, the US was still keen to promote an ordered transition to safeguard Egypt's status as a powerful purveyor of American influence in the Middle East from Arab-Israeli peace talks to countering Iran and fighting terrorism.

Positive statements

 Still, the administration would not join the chorus calling for Mubarak's prompt resignation, offering a shred of support for a leader who has long been loyal to the United States.

In contrast to the sharp tone on Egypt, the administration cautiously praised reforms in Yemen by another pro-Western president who pledged not to stay on beyond his current term in an attempt to head off his country's version of the pan-Arab unrest sparked last month by the Tunisian protesters who overthrew their president.

Crowley welcomed President Ali Abdullah Saleh's "positive statements" about including opposition elements in a reform process after three decades in control of his country, which has become a main battleground against al-Qaeda.

Saleh is seen as a weak but increasingly important partner of the United States, allowing American drone strikes on al-Qaeda targets and stepping up counterterrorism co-operation.

The United States also was keeping a close watch on developments in Jordan, the only Arab country beside Egypt to have concluded a peace agreement with Israel, where the powerful Muslim opposition urged King Abdullah II's newly appointed prime minister to step down.

  • bill - 2011-02-03 10:20

    Obama - the US 's own kortbroek .He has the economic muscle to end Mubarak's reign , yet hesitates.Yet again weak and lacking substance as in the dealings with the banks who are laughing at him.

  • themantshepo - 2011-02-03 10:21

    good one America.... tell it as it is for a change.... VIVA TO THE REVOLUTION VIVA

      DeonL - 2011-02-03 10:53

      Yes, now for the struggle in Zim! Remove Mugabe.

      themantshepo - 2011-02-03 11:25

      I agree, the zimbabweans in this country must go back to zim and start a revolution and topple that government.... and let this be a warning to any government that if you do not deliver to the people and make peopls life decent you will be revolutionised believe me

      Fazil - 2011-02-03 13:51

      Deon..I notice you are keen on starting a revolution in Zim...can you initiate the uprising?

  • kolobe - 2011-02-03 10:36

    they supply him with military Intelligence and weapons then claim to criticise him. where do these imperialists stand because they made Mubarak?

  • DeonL - 2011-02-03 10:48

    He is on his way out. It is time more people stand up to remove Mugabe. Zimbabwe was once a big exporter, now they are poor.

  • preshengovender69 - 2011-02-03 10:52

    Mubarak is in Denial and not the river

  • cammaratagerardo - 2011-02-03 10:53

    Pro-Western President??? Their only aim is to retain a pro-US ally in Egypt. The US regime has no concern for anyone other than themselves, and if Bush was still in power, they would probably have fabricated evidence of WMDs in Cairo. Down with the imperialists!

  • Gorilla - 2011-02-03 10:54

    The way I see it is you've got 100's of thousands of angry folk who have been given the opportunity to voice their opinion. They have done that, and now it's time to go home. They have been asked to leave but have now decided that they have the moral high ground and the ear of the world, so they decide to start killing people who disagree with them and refuse to leave. I think that the Army/Police have extended far more patience than is needed and if they don't act now, they will be in a dangerous situation. It's time to say enough is enough and begin showing your teeth. If you want to behave like cave men, you will be shot at, it's that simple.

      cammaratagerardo - 2011-02-03 11:07

      @Gorilla: the killing was done by pro-Mubarak supporters, not those protesting against him. Mubarak is still trying to squeeze out of abandoning power, which is why the protests can't stop until he has stepped down.

      Ingwe - 2011-02-03 12:12

      cammara wrong again the killing was done by both sets of supporters, it takes two to Tango

      Rootsy - 2011-02-03 12:40

      Gorilla please try & get the facts first - the protesters want Mubarak out with immediate effect, and he is refusing (talking about not standing for the next elections). That's their reason for the continued protesting, and I think it's justified.

      Gorilla - 2011-02-03 15:02

      Rootsy et al? whats your point? I'm aware of the facts. These people revert to barbaric behaviour and get put back into line (by whoever) they've made their point, but they have to go on and on until people and property get destroyed. how much kak should anyone take and remain polite?

  • Kevin Tucker - 2011-02-03 11:00

    What makes me angry is that the USA only acts and does something when they are to gain from it. Look at Zimbabwe, that is worse than the Egipt scenario but they did nothing about it. But they are quick to go in with full force in places like Irak and remove Suddham Hussain from leadership, why because they take control of the oil by doing so. Hmmmm! So why do you think they won't do anything in Egipt or Zimbabwe? Nothing really for them to benefit from unless they remove the pyramids and take them to america!!!Hehe. The world are blind to what is actually going on and why things happen. Most of it is planned!

  • Zubair - 2011-02-03 11:59

    We want to see free, fair and credible elections," it really means..please stay in power until so called free elections can be held under the observation of the UN, USA and the mean time the oil price will shoot thru the roof, maybe even 150USD a barrel.... at least that way we can try to pay off out trillion debt that we created by lying to the entire world.... added to that....we can use the uprising in egypt to scare all our puppets in the mid-east into either buying weapons from us, persuing allege al-qaeeda suspects and getting free oil... the "house of saud"..must be shaking ...i wonder..will they order more f16 or f22....hmmm or maybe even fund the new f35...

  • christine - 2011-02-03 12:20

    Isnt it a freeking disgrace that england france andgermany DEMAND immediate regime change --BUT america -ie obama and hillary are 'sharpening their critism ' dont the americans make you sick --democracy and the will of the people that they go on about adnauseum flies right out of the window when it comes to their puppet mubarack who they pay BIG money to for 30 yrs-- the fact that he is a dictator and suppreses 60 million people is conveniently forgotten --vomit vomit vomit on american politicans who have no morality when it comes to the greenback--no wonder usa are in the state they are --what a dissapointment obama has been

      bill - 2011-02-03 12:29

      Couldn't agree with you more.He is wet behind the ears and will be another Jimmy Carter.

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