Protests over Egypt's Mubarak spread to US cities

From New York to San Francisco, thousands of Egyptians and their supporters demonstrated against the regime of Hosni Mubarak. Meanwhile, Obama administration officials met to plan their next steps.

Jose Luis Magana/Reuters
Demonstrators hold placards and shout slogans against Egypt President Hosni Mubarak outside the Egyptian embassy in Washington on Saturday. The United States signaled to Egypt Friday it could lose some $1.5 billion in aid if it fails to rein in security forces and allow peaceful protests, raising pressure on a key ally as demonstrations raged.

As protests in Egypt went on into the fifth day, Egyptians and their supporters around the United States began demonstrating as well.

From New York to Washington to San Francisco, they gathered to denounce the regime of Hosni Mubarak – including his latest effort to name a new government and a new vice president, intelligence chief Omar Suleiman.

“It’s cosmetic action by Mubarak,” Ahmed Fathi, chairman of the Alliance of Egyptian Americans, told CNN. “We want Mubarak out, an end to his regime, a fresh start.”

Mr. Fathi was speaking outside United Nations headquarters in New York, where about 1,000 people had gathered Saturday for a day-long demonstration. Also on Saturday, several hundred protesters gathered outside the Egyptian Embassy in Washington where police had blocked off the street.

In Jersey City, N.J., Friday a crowd of 100 or so waved Egyptian flags and burned a photo of Mubarak.

“The American government has a strategic interest in Egypt, they see it as an ally in their fight against terrorism, as an island of stability in the Middle East,” Sherif Nasr, a physician who has lived in the United States for 29 years, told the New York Times. “I find it very disheartening that they insist the regime is stable, when it is a regime that has no respect for human dignity.”

Such demonstrations are aimed at pressuring the Obama administration to take a harder line against the Mubarak regime, which has run Egypt for 30 years.

“Secretary [Hillary] Clinton reiterated her support for Mubarak … when she indicated that his government is capable of reform,” said the Coalition of Egyptian Organizations and the Mid Atlantic Chapter of the Alliance of Egyptian Americans in a statement. “The United States should instead join France, Germany, and the European Community in condemning the killing of innocent civilians and the arrest of hundreds of peaceful demonstrators in Egypt.”

“US foreign policy should reflect both our stated ideals and our interests in that region,” said the groups. “Otherwise we will lose the hearts and minds of the Egyptian people as well as freedom loving people around the world especially in the Arab and Muslim worlds.”

Top Obama administration officials huddled Saturday as events unfolded in Cairo and other Egyptian cities. As they met, there were reports that at least 100 people had been killed in the protests there, together with indications that looting had begun in some of the wealthier suburbs around Cairo.

Vice President Joe Biden, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, and CIA chief Leon Panetta met in Washington, with US ambassador to Cairo Margaret Scobey briefing participants by video link, according to the Associated Press. President Obama later was briefed for an hour.

Meanwhile, State Department spokesman Philip Crowley kept up the pressure with statements on Twitter.

"The people of Egypt no longer accept the status quo. They are looking to their government for a meaningful process to foster real reform," he wrote. "The Egyptian government can't reshuffle the deck and then stand pat. President Mubarak's words pledging reform must be followed by action.”

Administration officials have said they would “review” the $1.5 billion in annual US aid to Egypt, most of that for military and other security programs.

At this point, tinkering with US aid likely would not satisfy Egyptian protesters here or abroad. They want Mubarak out – something the US is not yet ready to advocate.

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