Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has toughened the Obama administration’s stance on the unfolding events in Egypt, saying the United States is “deeply concerned” about the government’s use of violence against pro-democracy demonstrators.
But a former top official in President Bill Clinton’s State Department says the administration has been sending “mixed messages” about the protests calling for the downfall of the Hosni Mubarak administration.
Speaking in Washington, D.C., on Friday, Hillary Clinton said: “We continue to monitor the situation very closely. We are deeply concerned about the use of violence by Egyptian police and security forces against protestors, and we call on the Egyptian government to do everything in its power to restrain the security forces.
“At the same time, protesters should also refrain from violence and express themselves peacefully.
“We have repeatedly said we support the universal human rights of the Egyptian people, including the right to freedom of expression, of association, and of assembly. We urge the Egyptian authorities to allow peaceful protests and to reverse the unprecedented steps it has taken to cut off communication.
“These protests underscore that there are deep grievances within Egyptian society, and the Egyptian government needs to understand that violence will not make these grievances go away.
“As President Obama said yesterday, reform is absolutely critical to the well-being of Egypt. Egypt has long been an important partner of the United States on a range of regional issues, and we strongly believe that the Egyptian government needs to engage with the Egyptian people in implementing needed economic, political and social reforms.”
James “Jamie” Rubin, who served as Bill Clinton’s assistant secretary of State for public affairs, told CNN after Hillary’s speech: “She made it clear the United States recognizes that this is a moment not to be caught on the side.
“Unfortunately, I think the administration in recent days” has appeared undecided “whether to stay out of this as they did in Tunisia, or not get caught behind the curve. And unfortunately, the mixed messages are coming through to the people on the ground.
“The administration seems to be driven more by fear than strategy. They’re afraid of alienating Mubarak, but they’re also afraid of being caught behind the curve.”
Asked what the administration should say, Rubin responded: “I think they should make it clear it’s not just economic and political and social change. There has to be conditions in which the government of Egypt becomes a representative government.
“That means not supporting the move from the father to son. Gamal Mubarak is thought of as the next presidential candidate. It means having the proper election. It means a whole number of steps.”
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