May 24, 2013
Obama calls Mubarak's latest move insufficient
US President Barack Obama said Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak's statement that he would hand over power to his vice president was not enough to meet the demands of protesters clamouring for democratic change.
Hours after Mubarak's refusal to resign provoked rage among protesters in Cairo, Obama said that Egyptians "remain unconvinced that the government is serious about a genuine transition to democracy."
Obama earlier had watched on television as Mubarak said he would transfer power to Vice President Omar Suleiman. But the Egyptian president did not step down as many protesters had expected.
"The Egyptian government must put forward a credible, concrete and unequivocal path toward genuine democracy, and they have not yet seized that opportunity," the US president said in a written statement.
Before Mubarak's speech, Obama said the United States would support an "orderly and genuine" transition to democracy in the most populous Arab country, whose powerful military gets about $1.3 billion a year in aid from Washington. Egypt is a key US ally in the Middle East.
The United States has walked a fine line since the demonstrations began, endorsing the democratic aspirations of the protesters but trying not to openly desert a long-time ally or encourage an abrupt upheaval that could lead to chaos.
While not entirely dismissing Mubarak's gesture, Obama said the Egyptian government must go further "to spell out in clear and unambiguous language" a step-by-step path to democracy.
"We believe that this transition must immediately demonstrate irreversible political change, and a negotiated path to democracy," Obama said.
He urged the Egyptian government to lift emergency rule and convene talks with a broad swath of opposition groups.
Egypt's strategic importance to the United States includes its role in Middle East peace efforts after Cairo signed a peace accord with Israel in 1979, as guardian of the Suez Canal and as a counterweight to Iran.