Obama: Change in Egypt 'Must Begin Now'

Reuters

President Barack Obama on Tuesday said he told Hosni Mubarak an orderly transition of power in Egypt "must begin now," stopping short of publicly endorsing the Egyptian leader's plan to stay in office six more months.

Obama spoke to Mubarak for a half hour by telephone after the long-time U.S. ally announced plans to step down in September and not seek re-election in the face of mass protests in Egyptian cities.

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"What is clear and what I indicated tonight to President Mubarak is my belief that an orderly transition must be meaningful, it must be peaceful and it must begin now," Obama said.

Speaking at the White House, Obama directed his remarks to the young Egyptians who spilled into the streets over the past week to demand democratic reforms in Egypt.

"To the people of Egypt, particularly the young people of Egypt, I want to be clear: We hear your voices. I have an unyielding belief that you will determine your own destiny and seize the promise of a better future for your children and your grandchildren," he said.

After days of pressing Mubarak to address the grievances of his people, Obama sent an envoy to privately urge the Egyptian president on Tuesday to prepare for a transition of power.

Hours later, Obama and his advisers watched a recorded speech by Mubarak in which the Egyptian leader said he would not run for the presidency in September and would work in the last months of his term to allow the transfer of power.

Obama has sought to balance his desire to see reform with concern that change take place in an orderly fashion in Egypt, a longtime U.S. ally in the region and the most populous Arab nation.

Mubarak, Obama said, "recognizes that the status quo is not sustainable and that a change must take place. Indeed, all of us who are privileged to serve in positions of political power do so at the will of our people."

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