Clinton Urges Egypt’s Mubarak to Hold ‘Free and Fair Elections’

Clinton Urges Mubarak to Hold 'Free and Fair Elections'
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton speaking in Washington. Photographer: Tim Sloan/AFP/Getty Images

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak hasn’t met demands for democratic reforms and that the U.S. expects “free and fair elections” to be held in the Mideast nation.

“We are hoping and praying that the authorities will be able to respond to the legitimate requests for participation by protesters,” Clinton said on CBS’ “Face the Nation” program yesterday. “Words alone are not enough. There have to be actions, a demonstrable commitment to the kind of reforms we know are needed and desired.”

Clinton said the Obama administration has been in constant contact with top Egyptian leaders since the protests and violence erupted. She said the U.S. wants Mubarak to show restraint toward peaceful protesters, even if a tougher approach is needed for looters.

The State Department told families of its diplomats to leave Egypt and, in a travel warning posted yesterday, also advised U.S. citizens to leave the country because of the violence. U.S. evacuation flights are scheduled to begin today.

Market Reaction

Money-market rates in developing nations are increasing at the fastest pace since 2008 as central banks from China to Brazil lift borrowing costs and banks hoard cash on concern unrest in Egypt may destabilize the Middle East.

The dollar, yen and Swiss franc advanced for a second day against the euro on concern about Egypt, which spurred demand for safer assets.

Mubarak appointed his first vice president over the weekend after three decades in power without one. Clinton said a lot more action is needed. So far Mubarak’s done “the bare beginning of what needs to happen,” Clinton said on ABC’s “This Week” program.

“We are only at the beginning of what is unfolding in Egypt,” she said on NBC’s “Meet the Press” program. “We have been urging free and fair elections for many years,” she said.

Egypt’s ambassador to the United States, Sameh Shoukry, said on ABC yesterday he was confident changes would come quickly, as the protesters demand, “within the institutions that are still in operation.”

Egyptian opposition leaders have formed a committee to negotiate with the Egyptian government, said Ayman Nour, a politician and member of the committee.

The group also includes Mohamed ElBaradei, the former head of the United Nations’ nuclear watchdog agency, along with a senior member of the Muslim Brotherhood, the country’s main opposition group, Nour said in a telephone interview.

ElBaradei as Bridge

“If the Egyptian people want me to serve as a bridge from an authoritarian system into a democracy, I will not let them down,” ElBaradei said on CNN’s “Fareed Zakaria’s GPS” program, when asked whether he would be willing to serve as interim president. He said Mubarak will have to leave the country in “the next few days.” ElBaradei said the U.S. has been pursuing a “failed policy” with Egypt.

Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the Republican leader, declined to say whether the U.S. would recognize a government including the Muslim Brotherhood. “It’s up to the Egyptians determine what their leadership is. And we’ll take a look at it after that,” he said on NBC. “Hopefully this transition will occur relatively peacefully.”

McConnell pointed to Egypt as a U.S. ally, citing the commerce that flows through the Suez Canal and saying that Egypt has worked with Israel to prevent arms from going into Gaza while maintaining a peace treaty with Israel.

Stabilizing Force

Democratic Senator Charles Schumer of New York, asked on CNN about the impact on Israel, said Egypt has been “a stabilizing force” in the Middle East, including its recognition of Israel’s right to exist.

Clinton was interviewed on the Sunday talk shows before flying to Haiti for a one-day review of relief efforts there. During the flight she called into a secure conference line to discuss Egypt with U.S. officials and U.K. Foreign Minister William Hague, according to a State Department official who wasn’t authorized to speak on the record.

Senator John McCain of Arizona, appearing on CNN’s “State of the Union” program, warned that Egypt’s outcome would affect nations across the Middle East, including Jordan, Yemen and Libya.

“This is a very critical time. What happens in Egypt will directly and dramatically affect what happens in these other countries. There is a real awakening going on,” he said.

Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah told President Barack Obama there can be “no compromise” over the “stability” of Egypt, the official Saudi Press Agency reported yesterday.

Saudi King

The two leaders discussed the developments in a telephone conversation last night, SPA said. Obama “expressed his understanding for the point of view of the custodian of the two holy mosques” King Abdullah, it said.

Clinton in her television appearances stopped short of calling for Mubarak to step down, a demand of the street protests in Cairo and other Egyptian cities. “There is no discussion as of this time of cutting off any aid,” Clinton said on ABC.

U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and U.S. Admiral Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, spoke with their Egyptian counterparts yesterday, according to their spokesman.

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