• “Dictators will never resign peacefully, they get chased out”

    Date: 2011.02.02 | Category: Dictators, Freedom of Expression, Human Rights | Tags: ,,

    Obama Urges Faster Shift of Power in Egypt
    Published: February 2, 2011

    CAIRO — Just hours after President Hosni Mubarak declared Tuesday night that he would step down in September as modern Egypt’s longest-serving leader, President Obama strongly suggested that Mr. Mubarak’s concession was not enough, declaring that an “orderly transition must be meaningful, it must be peaceful, and it must begin now.”
    While the meaning of the last phrase was deliberately vague, it appeared to be a signal that Mr. Mubarak might not be able to delay the shift to a new leadership.

    In a 30-minute phone call to Mr. Mubarak just before his public remarks, Mr. Obama was more forceful in insisting on a rapid transition, according to officials familiar with the discussion.

    Mr. Mubarak’s 10-minute speech announcing he would step down came after his support from the powerful Egyptian military began to crumble and after American officials urged him not to run again for president.

    But Mr. Mubarak’s offer fell short of the protestors’ demands for him to step down immediately and even face trial, and it could well inflame passions in an uprising that has rivaled some of the most epic moments in Egypt’s contemporary history. The protests have captivated a broader Arab world that has already seen a leader fall in Tunisia this month and growing protests against other American-backed governments.

    Mr. Mubarak, 82, said he would remain in office until a presidential election in September and, in emotional terms, declared that he would never leave Egypt.

    “The Hosni Mubarak who speaks to you today is proud of his achievements over the years in serving Egypt and its people,” he said, wearing a dark suit and seeming vigorous in the speech broadcast on state television. “This is my country. This is where I lived, I fought and defended its land, sovereignty and interests, and I will die on its soil.”

    In Tahrir Square, crowds waved flags as the speech was televised on a screen in the square. “Leave!” they chanted, in what has become a refrain of the demonstrations.

    “There is nothing now the president can do except step down and let go of power,” said Mohammed el-Beltagui, a leader of the Muslim Brotherhood, Egypt’s most powerful opposition group, which has entered into the fray with Mr. Mubarak. Those sentiments were echoed by other voices of the opposition, including Mohamed ElBaradei, a Nobel laureate, and Ayman Nour, a longtime dissident.

    The speech and the demonstration, whose sheer numbers represented a scene rarely witnessed in the Arab world, illustrated the deep, perhaps unbridgeable, divide that exists between ruler and ruled in Egypt, the most populous Arab country and once the axis on which the Arab world revolved.

    The events here have reverberated across a region captivated by an uprising that in some ways has brought a new prestige to Egypt in an Arab world it once dominated culturally and politically. King Abdullah II of Jordan fired his cabinet after protests there on Tuesday, and the Palestinian cabinet in the West Bank said it would hold long-promised municipal elections “as soon as possible.” Organizers in Yemen and Syria, countries with their own authoritarian rulers, have called for protests this week.

    Read full report by David D. Kirkpatrick, Kareem Fahim and Liam Stack from Cairo; Nicholas Kulish from Alexandria, Egypt; and David E. Sanger from Washington. New York Times

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