Obama presses Hosni Mubarak to make 'right decision' and step down

Embracing an Egyptian future without Hosni Mubarak, President Barack Obama pressed the embattled leader to consider his legacy and leave his office in a way that would give his country a true chance for peace and democracy.


REUTERS - President Barack Obama on Friday appealed to Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak to make the "right decision" as the United States kept up its push for an orderly transition of power in the face of mass protests.

Obama stopped short of calling for Mubarak to immediately resign -- the demand of the thousands of protesters on the streets of Cairo. But Obama pointedly noted that the Egyptian president has already made a decision not to run re-election.

Obama told reporters that in their two conversations since mass protests against Mubarak's 30-year rule began 11 days ago he stressed the need for an orderly transition to democracy in the country, long a cornerstone of U.S. Middle East strategy.

"Having made that psychological break, that decision that he will not be running again, I think the most important thing for him to ask himself ... is how do we make that transition effective and lasting and legitimate," Obama said at a news conference with Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

"The key question he should be asking himself is: how do I leave a legacy behind in which Egypt is able to get through this transformative period?' And my hope is ... that he will end up making the right decision," Obama said.

In what may have been an effort to quash a New York Times report that U.S. and Egyptian officials discussed Mubarak's immediate resignation in favor of Vice President Omar Suleiman, Obama said, "The future of Egypt will be determined by its people."

Egypt has been a U.S. ally throughout Mubarak's reign and it is strategically vital to American interests because of its peace treaty with Israel, its control of the Suez Canal and its opposition to militant Islam.

After two days of clashes between Mubarak loyalists and anti-Mubarak protesters and efforts to cut off news coverage of the demonstrations, Obama said the rights of protesters, human rights activists and journalists must be respected.

"Going back to the old ways is not going to work. Suppression's not going to work. Engaging in violence is not going to work. Attempting to shut down information flows is not going to work," he said.

"The only thing that will work is moving (an) orderly transition process that begins right now, that engages all the parties, that leads to democratic practices, fair and free elections, a representative government that is responsive to the grievances of the Egyptian people," he added.

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