White House spokesman Robert Gibbs condemns the wave of violence among pro- and anti-government demonstrators in Cairo and reiterates that the U.S. believes the time for a transition of power has come.
Reporting from Los Angeles --
The White House on Wednesday warned the Egyptian government that it should not instigate violence among demonstrators in Cairo and should stop if it had a role in the dangerous confrontations.
Speaking to reporters, White House spokesman Robert Gibbs condemned the wave of violence among demonstrators in Cairo. He repeated that the United States wanted to see democratic changes in Egypt and that it was in favor of a transition of power.
President Obama, who has spoken about the situation in settings that precluded questions, will be available to the media later this week, Gibbs said.
Gibbs spoke after a day of violent confrontations between anti-government protesters and those supporting President Hosni Mubarak, who has been in power for almost three decades. Tuesday night, Mubarak announced he would stay in office but would not seek reelection in September.
That partial concession was far less than the demonstrators and many outside Egypt were seeking. Protesters on Wednesday repeated their calls for Mubarak to step down immediately.
“The time for a transition has come and the time is now,” Gibbs said. “The Egyptian people need to see change. We know that meaningful transition must include opposition voices … as we move toward free and fair elections. That process must begin.”
Gibbs condemned Wednesday's violence, which included gunshots and firebombs along with knives. Hundreds of injuries have been reported.
"It is imperative that the violence we are seeing stop and that the transition that was spoken about last night begin immediately," Gibbs said.
He also warned the Egyptian government to end any involvement if it was sending pro-government demonstrators into the streets to oppose the anti-government protesters who have been there since Jan. 25. Demonstrators have blamed agents of the government for instigating the violence as a pretext for a further crackdown.
"If any of the violence is instigated by the government it should stop immediately," Gibbs said.
The situation in Egypt has remained fluid, as has the administration's response. At first the Obama administration said it was neutral on who should lead Egypt, but it has made it clear in recent days that it wanted an "orderly transition" that included democratic reforms such as freedom of assembly and free elections.
As the situation has continued, the administration has appeared to grow more frustrated with Mubarak. Obama has spoken with Mubarak directly and has sent a special envoy to make its position clear.
Gibbs described the conversations between Obama and Mubarak as "direct, frank and candid." He would not give details but said “the message that was delivered” was that “the time for change has come.”
Pressed by reporters, Gibbs would not discuss what steps the Obama administration was considering. He did repeat, however, that the administration was looking at about $1.5 billion in aid that goes to Egypt and its military.
Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Mike Mullen spoke by phone with his Egyptian counterpart, Lt. Gen. Sami Anan — their second conversation since Anan cut short a U.S. visit last week to return to Egypt.