Egyptian VP agrees to some democratic reforms
In a meeting with opposition leaders Sunday, the Egyptian vice president gave in to several demands but stopped short of agreeing to the immediate departure of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak.
Vice President Omar Suleiman “agreed to allow freedom of the press, to release those detained since anti-government protests began nearly two weeks ago and to lift the country’s hated emergency laws when security permits,” according the Associated Press.
Vice President Omar Suleiman endorsed a plan with the opposition to set up a committee of judiciary and political figures to study proposed constitutional reforms that would allow more candidates to run for president and impose term limits on the presidency, the state news agency reported. The committee was given until the first week of March to finish the tasks.
The regime also pledged not to harass those participating in anti-government protests, which have drawn hundreds of thousands at the biggest rallies. The government agreed not to hamper freedom of press and not to interfere with text messaging and Internet.
All of the concessions were designed to appease opposition forces who have said they will not back down until Mubarak leaves office.
The Egyptian president announced last week that he would retire in September.
On Saturday, US President Barack Obama called “an orderly, peaceful transition, beginning now.”
The comments came as the United States distanced itself from a one-time envoy’s suggestion that President Mubarak should remain in office during a transition.
Frank Wisner, an influential retired diplomat and former US ambassador to Egypt who met with Mubarak at Obama’s request this week, “was speaking for himself and not for the US government,” a senior Obama administration official said in Washington.
Wisner called Mubarak an “old friend” of the United States, and said he “must stay in office in order to steer those changes through.”
“President Mubarak’s continued leadership is critical,” Wisner told the Munich Security Conference via video link.
“Frank Wisner was speaking as a private citizen … analyst … not as a representative of the US government,” the US official said on condition of anonymity.
This video is from ABC’s This Week, broadcast Feb. 6, 2011.
— with AFP