Clinton: Egypt must transition to democracy
By LOLITA C. BALDOR, Associated Press
WASHINGTON (AP) - The U.S. appealed for an orderly transition to lasting democracy in Egypt even as escalating violence in the American ally threatened Mideast stability and confronted President Barack Obama with his most critical foreign policy challenge to date.
Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton refused to speculate on the future of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak or his teetering government. "What we don't want," she said, "are radical ideologies to take control of a very large and important country in the Middle East.
Clinton's comments came as the Obama administration tried to get a handle on the fast-moving situation in Egypt, a critical U.S. friend in the long quest for peace in the Middle East. Left largely unsaid is the growing fear that a government hostile to the U.S. could gain control of such a large and important Arab nation.
The U.S. wants to see "real democracy" emerge in Egypt, Clinton said, "not a democracy for six months or a year and then evolving into essentially a military dictatorship or a so-called democracy that then leads to what we saw in Iran."
Clinton, in interviews on the five morning shows, repeatedly stressed that Egypt's future lies in the hands of its people, hewing to the administration line of refusing to take sides publically in the upheaval.
While there have been repeated calls for Egypt to move toward democracy, it was not clear what efforts the administration may be making behind the scenes to influence the situation.
"There has to be a commitment by whoever is in the government that they will engage in a national dialogue with the people of Egypt, with the aim at taking actions that will meet the legitimate grievances of the Egyptian people for more participation, for respect for human rights, for the universal human rights they are entitled to, for economic reforms that will give more opportunity," she told reporters traveling with her to Haiti on Sunday.
Asked if she thought Mubarak had taken the necessary steps so far to hold on, Clinton said, "It's not a question of who retains power. . It's how are we going to respond to the legitimate needs and grievances expressed by the Egyptian people and chart a new path. Clearly, the path that has been followed has not been one that has created that democratic future, that economic opportunity that people in the peaceful protests are seeking."
Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., demurred when asked if the U.S. should abandon support of Mubarak. He said the U.S. needs to "be on the right side of history" and do a better job of arguing for human rights.
"It was clear for a long time that the kind of repressive regime . that Mubarak controls, sooner or later there is going to be great difficulties," said McCain.
The U.S. recommended that Americans leave Egypt as soon as possible, while other nations urged their citizens to avoid traveling to Cairo as days of protests descended into chaos.
The U.S. plans to offer evacuation flights to Europe for Americans who want to get out of the country; details were being worked out. The Pentagon said it hadn't received any requests to provide transportation assistance.
Mubarak appointed a vice president on Saturday for the first time in more than 30 years - the U.S. long has pressed for that and Clinton called it the "bare beginning of what needs to happen" - and has pledged to make reforms.
"We want to see free and fair elections and we expect that this will be one of the outcomes of what is going on" now, Clinton said, adding that the U.S. is committed to working with the Egyptians that are interested in true democracy.
Clinton appeared on "Fox News Sunday," NBC's "Meet the Press," CBS' "Face the Nation," CNN's "State of the Union" and ABC's "This Week."
(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)