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Egypt failing to meet protest concerns says US

Washington, February 10, 2011

Egypt must do more to meet protesters' demands for political change, the US said on Wednesday in a sharp escalation of rhetoric with one of its allies in the Middle East.

Washington is waiting for 'real, concrete' moves to speed the transition, White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said after Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit suggested the US was eager to impose its will on Cairo.

'What you see happening on the streets of Cairo is not all that surprising when you see the lack of steps that their government has taken to meet their concerns,' Gibbs said.

Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak held meetings at the White House as the US and another key ally weighed the impact of Egypt's crisis on stability in the Middle East.

US Vice President Joe Biden on Tuesday set out steps Egypt must take in the face of unrelenting protests against President Hosni Mubarak, bluntly telling his government to stop harassing protesters and immediately repeal an emergency law allowing detention without charge.

The demands appeared aimed at raising pressure on Mubarak's handpicked vice president, Omar Suleiman, the former intelligence chief who is negotiating with opposition figures demanding Mubarak's immediate ouster.

'Never go back'

'A lot has changed in Egypt, just within the period of the last week,' Ben Rhodes, a deputy national security adviser, told journalists on a conference call. 'We believe it can never go back to being the way it was.'

Mubarak has given no indication he will step down, saying only that he will not run in September elections.

Aboul Gheit, in an interview with the PBS 'NewsHour' program, said Biden's advice was 'not at all' helpful and that he was amazed by the suggestion the emergency law should go.

'We have 17,000 prisoners loose in the streets, out of jails that have been destroyed. How can you ask me to sort of disband that emergency law while I'm in difficulty?' he said.

'Give me time, allow me to have control, to stabilize the nation, to stabilize the state, and then we would look into the issue.'

Gibbs said Mubarak's administration appeared out of touch. 'I think it is clear that the Egyptian government is going to have to take some real, concrete steps in order to meet the threshold that the people of Egypt, that they represent, require from their government,” he added.

US President Barack Obama discussed Egypt with Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah on Wednesday and emphasized the US commitment to security in the region, the White House said. – Reuters




Tags: Egypt | White House | Mubarak | Washington | protests |

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