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Obama presses Mubarak on reform

Narayan Lakshman
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Asks Egyptian President to deliver on promise of democracy

Uneasy calm: Demonstrators surround Army tanks at Tahrir Square during protests in Cairo on Saturday. — Photo: Reuters
Uneasy calm: Demonstrators surround Army tanks at Tahrir Square during protests in Cairo on Saturday. — Photo: Reuters

United States President Barack Obama said 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 to refrain from using violence in the context of the ongoing protests in Egypt.

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

In comments made later, Mr. Obama said 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 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 say most of Egypt has been cut off from Internet and mobile telephone access since the protests began.

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”.

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