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U.S. to review aid to Egypt, White House says
Question of the Day
Mrs. Clinton said that reform “is absolutely critical to the well-being of Egypt” and urged Mr. Mubarak and his government to “engage immediately” with opposition groups and others to make broad economic, political and social changes. She said the Obama administration had raised repeatedly with Egypt the “imperative for reform and greater openness.”
“The Egyptian government has a real opportunity in the face of this very clear demonstration of opposition to begin a process that will truly respond to the aspirations of the people of Egypt,” she said. “We think that moment needs to be seized and we are hoping that it is.”
White House and State Department spokesmen echoed Mrs. Clinton’s remarks in comments posted to Twitter, one of the social media sites that the Egyptian protesters had used to organize their demonstrations and that the government has blocked access to.
Senior lawmakers expressed growing unease with the developments, which could affect their deliberations on future assistance to Egypt.
Sen. John Kerry, a Democrat and chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said Egypt’s leaders must step back from the brink as Mr. Mubarak called in the military to help quell the protests that continued into the night, spreading in defiance of a curfew and attempts by police and security forces to break them up.
“In the final analysis, it is not with rubber bullets and water cannons that order will be restored,” Mr. Kerry said. “President Mubarak has the opportunity to quell the unrest by guaranteeing that a free and open democratic process will be in place when the time comes to choose the country’s next leader later this year.”
Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, a Republican and chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said the protests were a sign that the Egyptian people’s “cries for freedom can no longer be silenced.” She said she was troubled by the “heavy-handed” government response.
“I am further concerned that certain extremist elements inside Egypt will manipulate the current situation for nefarious ends,” she said.
While tensions were often evident at public events with U.S. and Egyptian officials, secret diplomatic cables released by the WikiLeaks website revealed even deeper strains.
“The Egyptians have long felt that, at best, we take them for granted; and at worst, we deliberately ignore their advice while trying to force our point of view on them,” Ambassador Scobey wrote in a Feb. 9, 2009, memo before Clinton met with Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit.
The Egyptian government “remains skeptical of our role in democracy promotion, arguing that any efforts to open up will result in empowering the Muslim Brotherhood, which currently holds 86 seats — as independents — in Egypt’s 454-seat parliament,” Ms. Scobey wrote.
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