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Egypt protests: US speaks again, but no one seems to be listening

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton's comments on the Egypt protests Friday call on President Hosni Mubarak to embrace reforms. But he hasn't paid the US heed during the crisis.

By Staff writer / January 28, 2011

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton speaks to the media following her meeting with Jordan's Foreign Minister Nasser Judeh in Washington Wednesday. On Friday, she made comments about the Egypt protests.

Jason Reed/Reuters

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Washington

As protesters filled Egyptian streets Friday and defied a curfew, the United States toughened its calls for reforms but essentially left intact its makeshift approach to events in the key Middle East country: support for both the protesters and the government of President Hosni Mubarak.

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“We want to partner with the Egyptian people and their government,” Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said in a statement Friday. She called on the Mubarak government to restrain the police and security forces as a first order of business, and to move quickly to “economic, political and social reforms.”

The administration thus appears set on a course of ramping up demands for “meaningful reforms” as events intensify, but continues to hold back from uttering the words the thousands of protesters would like to hear most: support for a political “transition” in Egypt.

In any case, what the US has to say may matter less than some officials in Washington may think, with evidence mounting the Mubarak regime was paying little heed to Washington's words.

In brief comments at the State Department, Secretary Clinton repeated several times that the US sees itself as a “partner” of both the Egyptian people and the Egyptian government. And as a partner, the US, she said, has long encouraged the Egyptian government to “engage” with its own people, and was emphasizing that need now.

“The Egyptian government needs to engage with the Egyptian people,” Clinton said. “Violence will not make [their] grievances go away.”

Ignoring American counsel

The secretary also held the government accountable for the massive disruptions of communications across Egypt, including cellular communications and the Internet, and called for the repressive steps to be reversed.

“We urge the Egyptian authorities to allow peaceful protests, and to reverse the unprecedented steps it has taken to cut off communications,” she said.

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