The US appealed for an orderly transition to lasting democracy in Egypt even as escalating violence there threatened Middle East stability and put US President Barack Obama in a diplomatic bind.
US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton on Sunday refused to speculate on the future of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak or his government.
However, US officials, “obviously want to see people who are truly committed to democracy, not to imposing any ideology on Egyptians,” she said.
She warned against a takeover resembling the one in Iran, with a “small group that doesn’t represent the full diversity of Egyptian society” seizing control and imposing its ideological beliefs.
Clinton’s comments came as the Obama administration tried to get a handle on the fast-moving situation in Egypt.
The US 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 Sunday morning TV shows, repeatedly stressed that Egypt’s future lies in the hands of its people, hewing to the administration line of refusing to take sides publicly 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.
Obama called foreign leaders this weekend to convey his administration’s desire for restraint and an orderly transition to a more responsive government in Egypt. The White House said he spoke with leaders from Britain, Turkey, Israel and Saudi Arabia, and sought their input. He also got a briefing on Sunday morning from his national security staff, and senior policy officials gathered for a deputies committee meeting to discuss the situation in Egypt.
Clinton made clear there are no discussions at this time about cutting off aid to Egypt, which receives about US$1.5 billion in annual foreign assistance from the US to help modernize its armed forces and strengthen regional security and stability.
While Clinton did not voice support for a continued Mubarak reign or any other political party, she outlined US expectations from any future government.
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.”
“We want to see free and fair elections and we expect that this will be one of the outcomes of what is going on,” Clinton said, adding that the U.S. is committed to working with the Egyptians who are interested in true democracy.