Obama Urges Reform in Egypt as Deadly Protests Continue
US President Barack Obama has called on Egyptian dictator Hosni Mubarak to exercise restraint in dealing with the tens of thousands of protesters who have taken to the streets in cities across Egypt, and to take “concrete steps” towards political reform. Al-Jazeera reports that Obama spoke by phone with Mubarak for half an hour earlier today and released a statement saying: “I want to be very clear in calling upon the Egyptian authorities to refrain from any violence against peaceful protesters. 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.”
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said that “these protests underscore that there are deep grievances within Egyptian society, and the Egyptian government needs to understand that violence will not make these grievances go away.” She called for restraint on all sides and urged Egyptian authorities to restore access to the internet and blocked social media sites like Facebook and Twitter.
The United States is also reviewing its $1.5 billion in economic and military aid to Egypt.
(A brave Egyptian protester is shot dead by state security forces in Sinai– GRAPHIC):
Although these developments are a welcome departure from the usually staunch American backing of the repressive Mubarak regime, they in no way represent a seismic shift in Washington’s Egypt policy. Egyptian authorities using deadly force to quell the protests are utilizing American-made weapons. Photographs of sometimes lethal chemical grenades marked “MADE IN USA” have appeared on social media sites, eliciting furious responses from Egyptians who suspect Washington’s hand in the violence.
The unrest continues today, despite a government-imposed curfew. Tens of thousands of protesters took to the streets in various cities, with police firing rubber bullets, tear gas canisters and water cannons as they attempted to disperse crowds. At least five people have died in the capital city of Cairo, with at least 870 more injured. President Mubarak has dismissed the nation’s government and promised reforms, but the dissidents don’t seem to be buying any of it. Also, the Wall Street Journal reports that Nobel Peace Prize winner Mohamed El-Baradei was placed under house arrest after returning to Egypt to join the protesters. Many of his supporters who had surrounded him to protect him were beaten by baton-wielding policemen. “It is a critical time in the life of Egypt,” El-Baradei told reporters upon arriving in the country. “I wish we didn’t have to go into the streets to impress upon the regime that they have to change.”
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