Obama pushes Mubarak to clarify change in Egypt

President Obama pressed embattled Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak to clarify what is happening with the country's government just hours after Mubarak shocked the world by announcing he would stay in office.

In a lengthy statement that didn't mention Mubarak by name, Obama criticized Egypt's president for muddying the waters. 

ADVERTISEMENT
Mubarak said he is not leaving power, but is transferring all authority to Vice President Soueliman, a move that sparked further protests from the crowds in Cairo.

Obama was more forceful than he has been so far, saying in a written statement that the "Egyptian government must put forward a credible, concrete and unequivocal path toward genuine democracy, and they have not yet seized that opportunity."

"The Egyptian people have been told that there was a transition of authority, but it is not yet clear that this transition is immediate, meaningful or sufficient," Obama said. "Too many Egyptians remain unconvinced that the government is serious about a genuine transition to democracy, and it is the responsibility of the government to speak clearly to the Egyptian people and the world."

Obama continued to insist that the Egyptian government respect the universal rights enjoyed by the protesters, calling for restrain from both sides of the stand-off and taking a decidedly marked step to the side of the protesters. 

"Going forward, it will be essential that the universal rights of the Egyptian people be respected," the president said. "There must be restraint by all parties. Violence must be forsaken. It is imperative that the government not respond to the aspirations of their people with repression or brutality. 

"The voices of the Egyptian people must be heard."

The Obama administration appeared to join the rest of the world in being duped into believing that Mubarak would resign.

Earlier Thursday in a speech in Michigan, Obama said that it was clear that "we are watching history unfold," calling it a "moment of transformation."

And before that, Obama's CIA Director Leon Panetta testified that there was a "strong likelihood" that Mubarak would step down.

Obama was briefed on his way to Michigan, where he delivered remarks on expanding wireless Internet access by National Security Adviser Tom Donilon.

The president watched Mubarak's shocking remarks aboard Air Force One on his way back to Washington. Back at the White House, Obama huddled with his national security team before issuing the written statement.

This story was updated at 8:55 p.m.