US criticises Egyptian regime over slow pace of reform

By Arun Kumar, IANS
Tuesday, February 8, 2011

WASHINGTON - As Egypt continued to be roiled in turmoil, the United States criticised the embattled Cairo regime, calling comments by Vice President Omar Suleiman that Egypt is not ready for democracy “particularly unhelpful.”

“Vice President Suleiman made some particularly unhelpful comments about Egypt not being ready for democracy,” White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs told reporters Tuesday reflecting a growing US dissatisfaction over the slow pace of reforms demanded by protestors.

“I don’t think that in any way squares with what those seeking greater opportunity and freedom think is a timetable for progress,” he said.

Gibbs also took exception to another remark of Suleiman, the intelligence officer chosen by Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak as his deputy to bring about reforms, that foreign elements, including Islamists, are behind or motivating the protesters in Egypt.

“I think the rhetoric that we see coming out now that simply says that somehow what you see on TV has been drummed up by foreigners is at great odds with what we know is actually happening,” Gibbs said.

“The government has got to stop arresting protesters and journalists, harassment, beatings, detentions of reporters, of activists, of those involved in civil society,” he said.

Gibbs repeated the US call for an orderly transition in Egypt from the repressive rule of the past three decades under Mubarak to a multiparty democracy through free and fair elections.

The talk of reform must be followed by meaningful action, or the protests on the streets would continue, he said.

In another sign of US frustration with the pace of reform in Egypt, Vice President Joe Biden, in a phone call Tuesday with Suleiman, pushed for more progress, according to a White House statement.

In the phone conversation with Suleiman, Biden urged “that the transition produce immediate, irreversible progress that responds to the aspirations of the Egyptian people,” the White House stated.

It said the two vice presidents discussed “restraining the Ministry of Interior’s conduct by immediately ending the arrests, harassment, beating, and detention of journalists, and political and civil society activists, and by allowing freedom of assembly and expression; immediately rescinding the emergency law; broadening participation in the national dialogue to include a wide range of opposition members; and inviting the opposition as a partner in jointly developing a road map and timetable for transition.”

“These steps, and a clear policy of no reprisals, are what the broad opposition is calling for and what the government is saying it is prepared to accept,” the statement said.

Biden “expressed the belief that the demands of the broad opposition can be met through meaningful negotiations with the government.”

(Arun Kumar can be contacted at

Filed under: Diplomacy

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