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Updated: January 29, 2011 21:09 IST

Obama presses for reform and peace in Egypt

Narayan Lakshman
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U.S. President Barack Obama delivers a statement on Egypt in the State Dining Room of the White House, on Friday.
AP U.S. President Barack Obama delivers a statement on Egypt in the State Dining Room of the White House, on Friday.

United States President Barack Obama said that on Friday he had urged Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak to take "concrete steps" to deliver on his promise to create "better democracy and greater economic opportunity"

United States President Barack Obama said that on Friday he had urged Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak to take “concrete steps” to deliver on his promise to create “better democracy and greater economic opportunity,” and also refrain from using violence in the context of the ongoing protests in Egypt.

“Violence will not address the grievances of the Egyptian people,” Mr. Obama said on a phone call to the Egyptian President, adding, “And suppressing ideas never succeeds in making them go away.”

In comments made in the White House State Dining Room, Mr. Obama further said that concrete steps were required to advance the rights of the Egyptian people through a meaningful dialogue between the government and its citizens.

In particular, he called upon the Egyptian government to reverse the actions that it had taken to “interfere with access to the Internet, to cell phone service and to social networks that do so much to connect people in the 21st century.”

Reports have emerged that most of the Egyptian population had been cut off from the Internet and mobile telephone access since the protests began more than five days ago.

At a media briefing earlier this week, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had similarly pressed the case for reform in Egypt, arguing that reform was “something that I think everyone knows must be on the agenda of the government as they not just respond to the protest, but as they look beyond as to what needs to be done economically, socially, politically.”

Ms. Clinton added that numerous “well informed, active civil society leaders in Egypt… have put forward specific ideas for reform, and we are encouraging and urging the Egyptian Government to be responsive to that.”

PTI reports:

Mr. Obama, who spoke to Mr. Mubarak for 30 minutes, asked the Egyptian authorities to refrain from any violence against peaceful protestors.

“The people of Egypt have rights that are universal. That includes the right to peaceful assembly and association, the right to free speech, and the ability to determine their own destiny. These are human rights. And the United States will stand up for them everywhere,” Mr. Obama said in his statement to the press.

Mr. Obama spoke with Mr. Mubarak after the latter addressed the nation, in which he ordered the resignation of his entire Cabinet.

“At the same time, those protesting in the streets have a responsibility to express themselves peacefully. Violence and destruction will not lead to the reforms that they seek,” he said in his remarks addressed to the protestors.

“Now, going forward, this moment of volatility has to be turned into a moment of promise. The United States has a close partnership with Egypt and we’ve cooperated on many issues, including working together to advance a more peaceful region.

But we’ve also been clear that there must be reform — political, social and economic reforms that meet aspirations of the Egyptian people,” he said.

Noting that grievances have built up over time in the absence of these reforms, Mr. Obama said that Mr. Mubarak pledged for a better democracy and greater economic opportunity when he addressed the Egyptian people.

“I just spoke to him after his speech and I told him he has a responsibility to give meaning to those words, to take concrete steps and actions that deliver on that promise,” Mr. Obama said.

Observing that ultimately the future of Egypt will be determined by the Egyptian people, Mr. Obama said that they want the same things like every one — a better life for themselves and their children, and a government that is fair, just and responsive.

“Put simply, the Egyptian people want a future that befits the heirs of a great and ancient civilization.”

Expressing America’s commitment to work with all the sections in Egypt to achieve a better future, Mr. Obama said, “around the world governments have an obligation to respond to their citizens. That’s true here in the U.S.; that’s true in Asia; it is true in Europe; it is true in Africa; and it’s certainly true in the Arab world, where a new generation of citizens has the right to be heard,” he said.

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