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On YouTube, Obama urges Egypt to avoid violence

Answering questions submitted by YouTube users, Obama says the Egyptian government should move forward with economic and political reforms. But he asks both the government and protesters to refrain from violence.

January 27, 2011|By Michael A. Memoli, Washington Bureau

Reporting from Washington — President Obama called on Egypt to refrain from violence and move forward with economic and political reforms in response to unprecedented nationwide protests against the government.

Obama's first public comments on the situation came in a wide-ranging Q-and-A session streamed live Thursday on YouTube, in which the president fielded questions submitted by YouTube users, part of a post-State of the Union messaging push from the White House.

Obama said he has consistently pressured Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak to pursue reform, which he called "critical to the long-term well-being of Egypt."

"My main hope right now is that violence is not the answer in solving these problems in Egypt," Obama said. "The government has to be careful about not resorting to violence. And the people on the streets need to be careful about not resorting to violence. And I think that it is very important that people have mechanisms in order to express legitimate grievances."

Obama answered questions about the budget, jobs, healthcare and drugs during the roughly 45-minute session, also mixing in lighter fare like his favorite things about being president and his Super Bowl prediction.

On the latter front, he avoided picking sides in a contest between the Pittsburgh Steelers and Green Bay Packers, teams with ardent supporters in two critical battleground states key to his re-election.

"Now that the Bears have lost, I have to stay neutral," he said.

Previewing his budget — which will include the cap on discretionary spending announced in Tuesday's speech to Congress — Obama said even programs he supports like community action grants may face cutbacks. The overall budget will save "$400 billion or so," he said, which would bring domestic discretionary spending to the lowest level since the Eisenhower administration.

"We want to cut with a scalpel as opposed to a chainsaw," he said.

mmemoli@tribune.com

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