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White House supports including opposition groups in Egypt negotiations

White House spokesman Robert Gibbs, while maintaining U.S. neutrality in the dispute as anti-government demonstrations in Egypt enter their second week, says talks should involve 'a broad cross-section of the Egyptian people including opposition groups.'

January 31, 2011|By Michael Muskal, Los Angeles Times
  • White House spokesman Robert Gibbs told reporters that the Obama administration continued to support the human rights demands by Egyptian protesters including freedom of association, assembly and speech.
White House spokesman Robert Gibbs told reporters that the Obama administration… (Mark Wilson, Getty Images )

The White House on Monday called for negotiations among a broad cross-section of the Egyptian people, including opposition groups, to help resolve the current political crisis.

As anti-government demonstrations in Egypt prepared to enter their second week, White House spokesman Robert Gibbs told reporters that the Obama administration continued to support the human rights demands by Egyptian protesters including freedom of association, assembly and speech.

“Those must be addressed in a substantive way by the Egyptian government,” Gibbs said.

The spokesman was careful to maintain the United States’ neutrality in the dispute between Egyptians and their government, headed for almost three decades by President Hosni Mubarak. Gibbs insisted that it was up to Egyptians to determine if Mubarak left office or whether he decided to skip the September elections.

 “We’re not picking between those on the street and those in government,” Gibbs said, insisting that the Egyptians must decide the next steps themselves. Whatever the choice, Gibbs said, the administration wanted an “orderly transition.”

“A whole range of issues have to be addressed,” Gibbs said. There “has to be meaningful negotiations with a broad cross-section of the Egyptian people including opposition groups.”

One of those groups is the Muslim Brotherhood, feared by some as a conservative Islamist group rather than a secular group calling for democratic reforms.

Gibbs said the United States has not ruled out the involvement of the Brotherhood, one of the largest organizations opposing the government. But Gibbs insisted that before it could be involved, the Brotherhood had to meet certain standards including “an adherence to the law, adherence to nonviolence and a willingness to part of that democratic process.”

Gibbs said Obama has been briefed on the Egyptian situation during the day as he has throughout the crisis.

In response to the demonstrations, Mubarak has shaken up his cabinet, appointing a vice president for the first time.

“This is not about appointments, this is about actions,” Gibbs said, adding that the United States and the rest of the world was waiting to see how the government responds to protesters’ demands.

Gibbs also said he knew of no contacts between the U.S. embassy in Cairo and opposition leader Mohamed ElBaradei this week.

The White House is monitoring the effect of the Egypt crisis on oil and financial markets, Gibbs said. There has been no disruption on the Suez Canal, an important route for moving goods through the Mideast.

Michael.muskal@latimes.com

Twitter.com/LAtimesmuskal

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