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Obama tells Mubarak, transition must begin 'now'

February 02, 2011

US President Barack Obama pauses as he speaks to the media following televised remarks made by Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak in the Grand Foyer of the White House in Washington. -Reuters Photo

WASHINGTON: US President Barack Obama said Tuesday he told President Hosni Mubarak a peaceful, orderly political transition must begin “now” in Egypt but did not say he should heed calls to quit immediately.

In a first reaction to Mubarak's statement that he would cede power after elections due in September, Obama reiterated that it was not up to the United States to choose the leader of Egypt.

Obama poured more pressure on Mubarak, a US ally for 30 years, but stopped short of adopting calls by mass crowds of protesters for him to leave immediately.

“What is clear, and what I indicated tonight to President Mubarak is my belief that an orderly transition must be meaningful, it must be peaceful, and it must begin now,” Obama said, minutes after calling the Egyptian leader.

Obama also made a gesture towards crowds of young Egyptians who reacted angrily to Mubarak's statement that he would stay on until September.

“To the people of Egypt, particularly the young people of Egypt, I want to be clear, we hear your voices. I have an unyielding belief that you will determine your own destiny,” Obama said at the White House.

The US leader also spoke directly to Egypt's all powerful military.

“I want to commend the Egyptian military for the professionalism that it has shown while protecting the Egyptian people.

“We've seen tanks covered with banners and soldiers and protesters embracing in the streets and going forward, I urge the military to continue its efforts to help ensure that this time of change is peaceful.”