WASHINGTON – Vice President Joe Biden said Thursday that Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak is not a dictator and shouldn’t have to resign, but should be more “responsive” to the needs of his people.
Biden’s remarks came as massive unrest ravaged Egypt every day since Tuesday targeting Mubarak’s 30-year regime, which sought to quiet demonstrators with the use of tear gas, warning shots and water cannon, according to media reports and videos, and by shutting off Internet communication.
“Look, Mubarak has been an ally of ours in a number of things,” Biden told PBS Newshour, “and he’s been very responsible on, relative to geopolitical interests in the region: Middle East peace efforts, the actions Egypt has taken relative to normalizing the relationship with Israel.”
“I would not refer to him as a dictator,” he added.
The vice president hedged when asked by interviewer Jim Lehrer if Mubarak should step down.
“No,” he said. “I think the time has come for President Mubarak to begin to move in a direction that would be more responsive to some of the needs of the people out there.”
Biden’s reticence to speak out more strongly against Mubarak’s government, now the target of a pro-democracy movement, appears to reflect the Egyptian leader’s willingness to be a US ally on key issues such as marginalizing Iran and cooperating with Israel on its regional goals.
Leaked diplomatic cables obtained by Wikileaks revealed a strong alliance between the two countries, as well as instances of police brutality and some pressure from the Obama administration on Mubarak to strengthen democratic institutions in Egypt.
Mubarak came to power in 1981 and was re-elected to four six-year terms, though tight constitutional restrictions on challenges to the presidency led to questions about his legitimacy. In 2005, under pressure to enact democratic reforms, Mubarak pushed his parliament to amend the constitution in a way that secured his re-election.
This video is from PBS’ Newshour, broadcast Jan. 27, 2011.
This audio is from PBS’ Newshour, broadcast Jan. 27, 2011.