WASHINGTON – Former President Jimmy Carter on Sunday called the unrest in Egypt an “earth-shaking event” and guessed the Arab nation’s thirty-year leader Hosni Mubarak will be forced to step down.
“This is the most profound situation in the Middle East since I left office,” Carter told a 300-student Sunday school class at Maranatha Baptist Church in his hometown of Plains, Georgia, according to the Columbus Ledger-Enquirer.
Carter described Mubarak as a president who has “become more politically corrupt” and “perpetuated himself in office” over thirty years. He said his “guess is Mubarak will have to leave.”
At least 100 have died in protests that ravaged Egyptian cities since last Tuesday as Mubarak’s police force unleashed tear gas and water cannons on demonstrators seeking his ouster. The government also cut off Internet communications and shut down Al Jazeera news coverage.
“The United States wants Mubarak to stay in power, but the people have decided,” Carter said.
As president, Carter brokered peace between Egypt and Israel in the 1979 Camp David Accords, which still stand today. He has continued to take a strong interest in international affairs and US foreign policy as ex-president. Mubarak was vice president at the time.
“I know Mubarak quite well,” Carter said.
President Barack Obama, Vice President Joe Biden and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton have urged Mubarak to refrain from violence and respond to the wishes of the Egyptian people, but stopped short of roundly condemning his actions or calling for him to step down.
Obama said he told Mubarak in a phone call that “the United States will continue to stand up for the rights of the Egyptian people and work with their government in pursuit of a future that is more just, more free and more hopeful.”
Mubarak dismissed his cabinet Friday and appointed as the new vice president Omar Suleiman, Egypt’s intelligence chief, who Carter described as “an intelligent man whom I like very much,” and one who “has always told me the truth.”
Though Mubarak has been a reliable American ally, senior US officials are quietly preparing for an Egypt without the 82-year-old leader.
This video is from Reuters, published Jan. 31, 2011.