WASHINGTON – US President Barack Obama said Friday the people of Egypt had spoken after history moved at a “blinding pace,” and called on the now-ruling military to ensure a transition towards “genuine democracy.”
“The people of Egypt have spoken — their voices have been heard and Egypt will never be the same,” Obama said in his first public response to the resignation of President Hosni Mubarak after days of raging protests.
The US administration had struggled for days to find ways of impacting the 18-day crisis, as Mubarak had defied pressure to end his 30-year rule.
Obama had ratcheted up calls for a peaceful, swift transition to democracy, and on Friday he pledged the United States would stand with the people of Egypt — one of America’s staunchest allies and a recipient of some two billion dollars in annual aid.
“By stepping down, President Mubarak responded to the Egyptian peoples’ hunger for change,” Obama said in his brief statement, his only reference to a deposed Arab strongman who was a US ally for three decades.
“Egyptians have made it clear that nothing less than genuine democracy will carry the day,” Obama said, praising the military for serving responsibly to preserve the state.
On taking power Friday, the military moved quickly to reassure the citizens whose street revolt toppled Mubarak that it would respect the popular will.
And the White House called on the new authorities in Egypt to honor existing peace agreements with Israel.
“It is important the next government of Egypt recognize the accords that have been signed with the government of Israel,” White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said.
Mubarak’s hurried departure Friday — after saying late Thursday he would stay until September’s elections — will have brought relief in Washington, facing a dearth of options to force and end to the crisis.
Obama hailed the toppling of Mubarak, brought down by two-weeks of mass protests in Cairo’s Tahrir Square, as a defining moment in world history.
“The word Tahrir means liberation. It’s a word that speaks to that something in our souls that cries out for freedom,” Obama said.
“Forever more it will remind us of the Egyptian people, of what they did, of the things that they stood for, and how they changed their country and in doing so changed the world.”
The president also drew parallels to other tumultuous world events, highlighting the end of the Berlin Wall, Indonesians rising up against president Suharto, and Indian independence icon Mahatma Gandhi.
“We can’t help, but hear the echoes of history, echoes from Germans tearing down a wall, Indonesian students taking to the streets, Gandhi leading his people down path of justice,” Obama said.
He called on the armed forces to now ensure a political transition that is “credible in the eyes of the Egyptian people,” Obama said, warning there could be “difficult days ahead.”
“Over the last few weeks, the wheel of history turned at a blinding pace, as the Egyptian people demanded their universal rights,” he said.
As well as praising Egyptians, Obama also sought to make a wider point, apparently seeking to connect with Muslims elsewhere who felt marginalized and may be easy prey for extremists.
“Egyptians have inspired us and they’ve done so by putting the lie to the idea that justice is best gained through violence,” Obama said.
“For Egypt, it was the moral force of non-violence, not terrorism, not mindless killing, but non-violence, moral force, that bent the arc of history towards justice one more.”
US lawmakers on Friday were also weighing tighter controls on exports that can help repressive regimes cling to power.
The US Congress, which cheered anti-government protests in Iran last year, also applauded the turmoil that toppled Mubarak, amid worries that US aid and know-how hurt both movements.
“We continue to watch and have concerns about the misuse of any equipment that the United States provides or sells to another nation,” said a spokesman for the House of Representatives Armed Services Committee, Josh Holly.
This video is from the White House, broadcast via FoxNews Feb. 11, 2011, snipped by Mediaite.