Obama Tells Mubarak It's Time For Transition After three decades of autocratic rule, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak announced Tuesday he would not seek re-election in September. The Obama administration has been quietly urging Mubarak to step aside, and Obama spoke to the Egyptian leader by telephone Tuesday night.
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Obama Tells Mubarak It's Time For Transition

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Obama Tells Mubarak It's Time For Transition

Obama Tells Mubarak It's Time For Transition

Obama Tells Mubarak It's Time For Transition

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After three decades of autocratic rule, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak announced Tuesday he would not seek re-election in September. The Obama administration has been quietly urging Mubarak to step aside, and Obama spoke to the Egyptian leader by telephone Tuesday night.

STEVE INSKEEP, Host:

NPR's Scott Horsley reports.

SCOTT HORSLEY: Mr. Obama said later, it's not for the U.S. to decide what happens in Egypt, but he said the status quo cannot go on.

INSKEEP: What is clear, and what I indicated tonight to President Mubarak, is my belief that an orderly transition must be meaningful, it must be peaceful, and it must begin now.

HORSLEY: It was quite a turnaround from just a week earlier, when secretary of state Hillary Clinton had pronounced Egypt stable.

M: That is a dramatic shift in policy to keep pace with a dramatic unfolding of events in the streets of Egypt.

HORSLEY: Yesterday, Mr. Obama huddled with his national security team for more than an hour in the situation room. That's where he watched Mubarak's announcement that he would not see another term. Indyk says it's doubtful, Mubarak has gone far enough.

M: I fear that just as with everything that Mubarak has done in the last week, it will be too little too late.

HORSLEY: President Obama stressed in his phone call with Mubarak, that the political transition should not be prolonged, suggesting a handover of power in September may not be good enough. Mr. Obama said the U.S. would continue to oppose violence and to support the human rights of the protestors.

INSKEEP: The passion and the dignity that has been demonstrated by the people of Egypt has been an inspiration to people around the world, including here in the United States, and to all those who believe in the inevitability of human freedom.

HORSLEY: Senior fellow, Steven Cook, of the Council on Foreign Relations says Mr. Obama struck the right notes last night. But Cook, who was in Egypt last week, warns: many people there are still suspicious of the U.S. for backing Mubarak all those years.

M: Those F16 over flights over Tahrir Square, the tear gas canisters with the Made in the USA label on it, these are the things that have made an impression on Egyptian people. But I do think it's important that at least there was an effort to try to get on the right side of this, rather than just continuing to support Mubarak at all costs.

HORSLEY: As demonstrations spread to other parts of the Arab world, the U.S. will face a continued tug-of-war between stable but autocratic regimes, and the uncertainty of political and economic reform. Cook says that uncertainty will take some getting used to. Many American policy leaders have never known an Egyptian leader other than Mubarak.

M: U.S.-Egypt relations aren't going to be the same, and no matter what happens, there's likely to be a more troublesome difficult relationship going forward.

HORSLEY: President Obama seemed to acknowledge that in his statement last night.

INSKEEP: There will be difficult days ahead. Many questions about Egypt's future remain unanswered. But I am confident that the people of Egypt will find those answers.

HORSLEY: Scott Horsley, NPR News, the White House.

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