Listen to calls for reform: Obama to Middle East leaders

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

WASHINGTON - US President Barack Obama said Tuesday that Middle Eastern leaders “can’t be behind the curve” as their populations demand change.

Referring to Iran’s crackdown on the anti-government protesters, Obama said that Iran’s clerical leadership is “pretending to celebrate what happened in Egypt” while “gunning down and beating people who were trying to express themselves peacefully.”

“My hope is we’re going to continue to see the people of Iran have the courage to be able to express their yearning for greater freedom and a more representative government, understanding that America cannot ultimately dictate what happens inside Iran anymore than it could inside of Egypt,” CNN quoted Obama as saying.

The comments came after 18 days of mass unrest toppled Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak last week.

In response to Iran’s accusations that the US and other powers were behind Monday’s opposition protests in Tehran and other cities, Obama said that Washington can “lend moral support to those who are seeking a better life for themselves”.

Obama said his administration has told Middle Eastern leaders that “the world is changing,” and “you can’t be behind the curve”.

“I think that the thing that will actually achieve stability in that region is if young people, if ordinary folks, end up feeling that there are pathways for them to feed their families, get a decent job, get an education, aspire to a better life.

“And the more steps these governments are taking to provide these avenues for mobility and opportunity, the more stable these countries are. You can’t maintain power through coercion,” the US President said.

The Middle Eastern countries saw a wave of protests recently. Weeks of anti-government demonstrations compelled Tunisian autocrat Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali to flee to Saudi Arabia Jan 14.

On Feb 11, Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak stepped down after ruling the country for 30 years. Opposition movements have also taken to the streets in Algeria, Jordan, Yemen, Bahrain and Sudan.

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