Tuesday, February 1, 2011

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Obama says Egypt's transition 'must begin now'

President Barack Obama warned Tuesday of "difficult days ahead" for Egypt and said the transition following President Hosni Mubarak's earlier announcement that he won't run for re-election in September must begin immediately.

In a brief statement to reporters at the White House, Obama pledged continuing U.S. support for both a longtime ally and the aspirations of protesting Egyptians, whose eight days of growing demonstrations led to Mubarak's dramatic announcement on state television.

"We've borne witness to the beginning of new chapter in the history of a great country and a long-time partner of the United States," Obama said of the Mubarak statement less than three hours earlier.

Noting that he and Mubarak had just spoken by phone, Obama said Mubarak "recognizes that the status quo is not sustainable and a change must take place." Repeating earlier calls for an orderly transition in Egypt from Mubarak's nearly three decades of repressive rule to a fully representative democracy, Obama said the transition "must be meaningful, it must be peaceful and it must begin now."

"Furthermore, the process must include a broad spectrum of Egyptian voices and opposition parties," Obama said."It should lead to elections that are free and fair. And it should result in a government that's not only grounded in democratic principles but is also responsive to the aspirations of the Egyptian people."

Earlier, sources told CNN that a U.S. envoy sent by Obama urged Mubarak to announce he won't run for re-election later this year, a major shift in foreign policy regarding the main Arab ally of the United States and a vital partner in the Middle East peace process because of its 1978 treaty with Israel.
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