U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton spoke today to Egypt’s new vice president, Omar Suleiman, and urged him to conduct an investigation into violence that rocked Cairo’s Tahrir Square.
“She emphasized our condemnation of the violence that occurred today and the responsibility of the government to hold fully accountable those who did it,” said Philip J. Crowley, the State Department spokesman.
Crowley said the U.S. doesn’t know who is behind attacks on protesters, which left more than 1,000 injured, according to the Al Jazeera television network. “Whoever they are, there needs to be accountability here,” Crowley said. “This was clearly an attempt at intimidating the demonstrators.”
Supporters of Egypt’s President Hosni Mubarak clashed in central Cairo with demonstrators who were demanding an immediate end to the 30-year tenure of the leader. Mubarak said yesterday he planned to stay in office until elections, scheduled for September.
The U.S. has called on Mubarak to begin the transition of power immediately. “Tomorrow is not good enough,” Crowley said.
“The U.S wants to see elections in Egypt as soon as possible, Crowley said. “What we want to see is a credible process that leads to free, fair, legitimate elections.”
Aid Under Review
Crowley said the U.S. has no plans to reduce the $1.5 billion in military and economic aid it provides to Egypt. He said, however, “this is something we will continually review based on ongoing events.”
Crowley praised the Egyptian army for its professionalism and said it was in the “difficult position” of trying to be a stabilizing force without being forced to choose sides. The army “will obviously play a role in this transition,” Crowley said.
President Barack Obama dispatched former Ambassador Frank Wisner to Egypt, where the diplomat told Mubarak on Jan. 31 that his time in office was coming to an end. Wisner, who is still in Egypt, also met with Suleiman, Crowley said. The U.S. has had no official contact with the Muslim Brotherhood, Egypt’s largest opposition group, Crowley said.
The State spokesman said the U.S. wouldn’t object if the Brotherhood took part in future elections. The group is legally banned from politics, so its members campaign as independents.
‘Fact of Life’
“They are a fact of life in Egypt; they are highly organized,” Crowley said of the group. “If they choose to participate and respect the Democratic process, those are decisions to be made inside Egypt.”
Crowley said the U.S. wouldn’t try to “anoint” a particular candidate in any future election.
“This is not our process,” he said. “Our point is this transition, this process to fundamental change, needs to begin now.”
In a nod to the ripple effects of Egypt’s upheaval, Crowley said the U.S. “would hope the next government of Egypt would play a constructive role in the peace process” between Israelis and Palestinians.
He dismissed calls by Suleiman for the demonstrators to go home before dialogue begins. “I don’t think it’s credible to say no dialogue can begin until the protesters leave the streets,” Crowley said.