The Obama administration supports an “orderly transition” and fair elections in Egypt and won’t take sides on the outcome as long as the demands of Egyptian citizens are met, White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said.
Gibbs repeatedly declined to say whether the U.S. wants Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak to step down in light of almost a week of protests around the country.
“It is not up to us to determine when the grievances of the Egyptian people have been met by the Egyptian government,” Gibbs told reporters during at the White House. “We’re not picking between those on the street and those in the government.”
Gibbs said there has to be “meaningful negotiations” among all groups in Egypt. He repeated the administration’s call for free and fair elections there.
“I do believe orderly transition means change,” he said.
As anti-government protests continue in major Egyptian cities and a larger demonstration of as many as one million people is planned for tomorrow, Gibbs said the U.S. officials have been in regular contact with their Egyptian counterparts, including in the military.
The “clear” message from the administration is that the grievances of Egyptian citizens “will not and cannot be addressed through violence,” he said.
Gibbs also said Obama’s economic team is monitoring financial and commodity markets for any sign the unrest in Egypt might hurt the economic recovery. So far there has not been any sign of disruptions in oil supplies, he said.
Still the uncertainty has rippled through markets. Oil rose 3.1 percent to the highest level in more than a week in New York as unrest in Egypt extended to a seventh day. About 2.5 percent of global oil production is shipped through Egypt via the Suez Canal and the Sumed oil pipeline, according to a Goldman Sachs Group Inc. report today.
The S&P 500 rose 0.7 percent to 1,285.12 at 3:17 p.m. New York time after losing 1.8 percent on Jan. 28.
Obama has been regularly briefed on the situation, Gibbs said, and a review of U.S. aid to Egypt, which totals more than $1.5 billion per year, is “ongoing.”