WASHINGTON – Leading Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney and Sen. John Kerry (D-MA) said Tuesday that Egypt’s president Hosni Mubarak should step down in the face of widespread protests that have ravaged the nation.
The change demanded by the Egyptian people, Romney said Tuesday on ABC’s “Good Morning America,” “would be best undertaken if President Mubarak were to step out of the way or lead the transition.”
“I think what the United States has to do is make it very clear to the people in Egypt that we stand with the voices of democracy and freedom,” Romney, a former governor of Massachusetts who leads the GOP’s 2012 presidential field, added.
Kerry, a former Democratic presidential nominee and chairman of the Senate foreign relations committee, also called on Mubarak to resign, urging in a New York Times op-ed that he “step aside gracefully to make way for a new political structure.”
“Ushering in such a transformation offers President Mubarak … the chance to end the violence and lawlessness, to begin improving the dire economic and social conditions in his country and to change his place in history,” Kerry wrote.
The remarks by Kerry and Romney raise questions about the future of the longstanding US-Egypt alliance if Mubarak remains in power.
The Obama administration has remained remarkably reticent on the issue, affirming its support for democratic reforms but stopping far short of calling for the resignation of Mubarak, who has been a reliable US ally during his thirty-year reign.
Egypt’s alliance has been critical to US goals in the region, most notably in helping Israel with its plans in Gaza, much to the dismay of many Arabs. It remains unclear who would lead Egypt if Mubarak’s regime were to fall, and how friendly the new president would be to the West.
The death toll in the unrest that sprung last Tuesday crossed 100 over the weekend, according to media reports. Mubarak on Friday dismissed his cabinet and appointed Egypt’s intelligence chief Omar Suleiman as vice president.
Amid clear signs that the 82-year-old Mubarak may not remain in power much longer, the Obama administration has reportedly been preparing for a new leader, weighing options as to how the US would deal with a more Islamic regime.