US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton yesterday toured Cairo’s Tahrir Square, the epicenter of the popular uprising that toppled Egypt’s longtime autocratic leader last month.
“It’s just a great reminder of the power of the human spirit and universal desire for freedom and human rights and democracy,” Clinton said. “It’s just thrilling to see where this happened.”
Clinton smiled and shook hands with the Egyptian citizens who surrounded her during her unscheduled 15-minute walk through the square.
“To see where this revolution happened, after all that it has meant to the world, is -extraordinary for me,” she said before entering a meeting with interim Egyptian Prime Minister Essam Sharaf.
Clinton’s two-day visit to Egypt is aimed at encouraging the Egyptian people and their transitional leaders to hold true to the ideals of democratic reforms that propelled the revolution. Clinton is the highest-ranking US official to visit Egypt since former Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak was ousted last month and she has pledged the US’ support for the transition.
“It was very exciting and moving for me to go to Tahrir Square and to have some sense of what those amazing days must have been like here in Cairo,” she told Sharaf.
“I am so looking forward to helping in any way that we can in the transformation and all the work that needs to be done,” she said. “There is so much work to be done, but the United States stands ready to help in every way possible to translate what happened in Tahrir Square into [the] new reality of Egypt.”
On Tuesday, Clinton unveiled details of an economic support package aimed at helping to create badly needed jobs, mainly for Egypt’s exploding youth population, and spur foreign investment. In addition to an already announced US$150 million being redirected to the transition and the financial sector, the aid will include tens of billions of dollars in credit and private-sector loans, as well as the expansion of Egyptian -facilities that are able to send duty-free exports to the US.
While trying to help Egypt resolve some of its most critical economic woes, Clinton pleaded with Egypt’s transitional authorities, as well as private civic groups that played a leading role in the anti-Mubarak protests, to embrace reform guided by two key ideas: non-violence and national unity.
“Those two principles must be embraced through the transition by all parties, to ensure a future of security and democracy for the Egyptian people,” she said.
She applauded an announcement on Tuesday of further dismantling of the hated state security apparatus and said Egypt now needs to prepare for free, fair elections to produce “leaders that will be able to respond to [your] aspirations.”
After her trip yesterday to -Tahrir Square, Clinton moved on to a meeting with the chief of Egypt’s -powerful Armed Forces Supreme Council, Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi.
She was to travel later yesterday to Tunisia, where she would be bringing the same message. The success of Tunisia’s anti-government protests in January fueled similar revolts across the Arab world.