- The Washington Times - Friday, February 4, 2011

Speaking to reporters for the first time since violence broke out on the streets of Cairo, President Obama on Friday wouldn’t say if he thought Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak should step down immediately but said he hopes the embattled leader will make the “right decision.”

Mr. Obama said the longtime strongman and U.S. ally needs to ask himself how to ensure that a transition of power is “effective and lasting and legitimate.”

“President Mubarak cares about his country. He is proud, but he’s also a patriot,” Mr. Obama said in brief remarks alongside Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, who was at the White House for a previously scheduled visit. “My hope is, is that he will end up making the right decision.”

The president also condemned the bloody street clashes that have targeted journalists, human rights activists and anti-government protesters in particular.

“We’ve seen violence and harassment erupt on the streets of Egypt that violates human rights, universal values and international norms,” Mr. Obama said. “So we are sending a strong and unequivocal message: Attacks on reporters are unacceptable. Attacks on human rights activists are unacceptable. Attacks on peaceful protesters are unacceptable.”

Mr. Obama said Mr. Mubarak’s government must keep the peace.

“The Egyptian government has a responsibility to protect the rights of its people,” he said. “Those demonstrating also have a responsibility to do so peacefully. But everybody should recognize a simple truth: The issues at stake in Egypt will not be resolved through violence or suppression.”

Echoing comments from earlier this week, when he praised Mr. Mubarak’s announcement that he would not stand for re-election inSeptember, Mr. Obama said Egypt’s future will not be decided by Americans but by the Egyptian people. At the same time, he laid out “core principles” that he said a transition must meet.

“A successful and orderly transition must be meaningful. Negotiations should include a broad representation of the Egyptian opposition and this transition must address the legitimate grievances of those who seek a better future,” he said. “If you end up having just gestures towards the opposition but it leads to a continuing suppression of the opposition, that’s not going to work.”