Saturday, January 29, 2011

Obama Scolds Mubarak About Egyptian Citizens' Demands

Washington - His chin resolutely raised in admonition, President Barack Obama lectured Egyptian Hosni Mubarak about the necessity to maintain power through "consent, not coercion.”

He insisted that Egyptian security forces and soldiers must stand down from violent reaction to mass street protests throughout this ancient desert republic situated on one of Africa's great rivers, the Nile.

Throughout Friday, soldiers fired rubber bullets and water cannon at protesters in the streets of Cairo and Suez, chasing them through the cities and thrashing them with riot sticks as phalanxes of shield-bearing soldiers in armor and helmets forced irate citizens back and away from government and political party headquarters buildings.

Access to such popular Internet applications as Facebook and Twitter was partially blocked until citizens learned how to use proxy servers to get access to their accounts and e-mail boxes, as well as websites carrying news of the riots.

Knowledgeable journalists with experience covering such phenomena in Tunisia, Iran and Yemen said that without the Internet connections, it would be difficult for the throngs of hundreds of thousands of persons to coordinate their protests.

Many security buildings, police stations and jails were torched as the day wore on.

Finally, President Mubarak appeared on television and promised to reopen the government with a brand-new cabinet lineup first thing this morning, pleading for calm and a return to normal behavior.

But the protesters would hear none of it. They continued to shout for a change in regime, including the office of President, a post Mr. Mubarak has held now for the past three decades of autocratic rule.

He is a major ally of the United States in its war on terror and the suppression of Islamic nationalism, according to the President and key officials at the Department of State.

One of the key elements in the Egyptian uprising is led by a group known as the Muslim Brotherhood, a fundamentalist Islamic movement founded in the 1920's.

Though "grievances have built up over time." Mr. Obama said that the demonstrators have a responsibility "to express themselves peacefully. Violence and destruction will not lead to the reforms they seek."

Mr. Obama called the Egyptian president in the middle of the night to say that “Mubarak has promised a better democracy and greater economic opportunity,” and "I told him he has a responsibility to give meaning to those words; to take concrete steps and actions that deliver on that promise.

"Violence will not address the grievances of the Egyptian people, and suppressing ideas never succeeds in making them go away," Mr. Obama said.

Mr. Obama also insisted that cell phone networks, which were jammed all day long on Friday by government devices, must be switched back on today. Though cell phone service was in operation this morning, Internet service appeared to still be blocked by government authorities.

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