By Jo Anne Bladd
The time is now for a new Egyptian government, says Obama, as Cairo street protests enter a second week
President Barack Obama said Egypt will not go back to the
way it was before thousands of people began protesting the government of
President Hosni Mubarak, and that a transition of power must begin soon.
“Egypt is not going to go back to what it was,” Obama said
in an interview on News Corp’s Fox broadcast network. “The Egyptian people want
freedom, they want free and fair elections, they want a representative
government, they want a responsive government.”
While Mubarak has been a “good partner” for the US in
keeping peace with Israel and on anti-terrorism, the time is “now” for a new
government, Obama said. He wouldn’t predict whether Mubarak will step down,
saying, “only he knows what he’s going to do.”
Obama also said he won’t retreat from supporting the healthcare
law he pushed through Congress last year and defended his economic policies,
saying he acted in response to a “complete crisis” that put the US on the brink
of another depression.
Obama was interviewed at the White House by Fox News Channel
anchor Bill O’Reilly as part of the network’s pre-game coverage of the Super
Bowl. Each year of his presidency, Obama has sat down to answer questions on
the network broadcasting the National Football League championship game.
The president and members of his administration have been
pushing the Egyptian government to negotiate with the opposition and begin
immediately preparing for a transition of power.
“I have confidence that if Egypt moves in an orderly
transition process, that we will have a government in Egypt that we can work
with together as a partner,” Obama said.
Egyptian Vice President Omar Suleiman held the first formal
meeting with members of the opposition yesterday, including the Muslim
Brotherhood - which is officially banned from running in elections - even as
some opponents continued to demand Mubarak’s immediate resignation.
Obama said the anti-government protests in Egypt, which
began September 25, must lead to a “representative government” in the country.
He downplayed concerns about the Muslim Brotherhood’s participation in the
negotiations, calling it “one faction” of the opposition to Mubarak and saying
that it doesn’t have majority support in Egypt.
The US can’t “dictate” the outcome, Obama said.