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White House sees some progress toward resolving Egypt crisis

President Obama says negotiators in Egypt are 'making progress.' White House spokesman Robert Gibbs notes that while Washington is 'strongly encouraging the process of meaningful change,' the result 'has to be determined by the Egyptians.'

February 07, 2011|By Michael Muskal, Los Angeles Times

The White House said on Monday that there has been some progress in discussions to resolve Egypt's political crisis, but it insisted definitive actions were needed.

As protests in Cairo prepared to enter the third week, President Obama told reporters there has been progress among those negotiating what lies ahead for Egypt.

"Obviously Egypt has to negotiate a path and they're making progress," Obama said after completing a speech to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

Briefing reporters later, White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said the United States "policy toward Egypt is we watch and we are strongly encouraging the process of meaningful change ... transpiring and resulting in a more open and transparent society."

The United States will continue to speak out against any violence particularly directed at anti-government demonstrators. The United States will do "what we can to encourage this process of change along. It's going to be bumpy," Gibbs said, but the result "has to be determined by the Egyptians."

"Words are not enough," Gibbs said, adding that the United States wanted discussions to lead to meaningful action by Egyptians in establishing free and fair elections and other democratic reforms.

Over the weekend, Egypt's new vice president Omar Suleiman met with opposition groups, including the Muslim Brotherhood. The United States backs those talks, though many of the demonstrators have said they do not go far enough and insist that President Hosni Mubarak step down.

“The most important thing is that there has to be a process toward meaningful change,” Gibbs said, noting that Mubarak has agreed not to run for reelection in September. His son and one-time heir, Gamal, has also indicated that he will not seek the presidency.

Gibbs called those actions “monumental” steps toward change.

"We have the beginnings of a process that is taking place, a process that we know has to include a series of steps that have to be taken and a series of things that have to be negotiated with a broad section of the opposition parties in order to move us toward a free and fair election," Gibbs said.

Gibbs also sidestepped a dispute with Frank Wisner, the former U.S. ambassador to Egypt who met during the crisis with Mubarak. Over the weekend, Wisner said that he believed that Mubarak should stay in office while negotiating a transition -- a position that seemingly puts him at odds which the Obama administration, which has made it clear that it does not believe Mubarak is part of the solution to Egypt's current woes.

"Ambassador Wisner is not an employee of the government," Gibbs said. He "was asked by the State Department to travel to Cairo and have a specific conversation with Mubarak. His views on who should or shouldn't be the head of Egypt doesn't represent the views of our administration."

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