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Voices of Egyptians have been heard, says Obama

Last updated on: February 12, 2011 10:18 IST

United States President Barack Obama recalled the non-violent methods of Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr as he praised the people of Egypt for their peaceful protests and welcomed the end of Hosni Mubarak's 30-year-rule.

"While the sights and sounds that we heard were entirely Egyptian, 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 the path of justice," Obama said in his speech hours after Hosni Mubarak resigned as President of Egypt.

As Martin Luther King said in celebrating the birth of a new nation in Ghana, while trying to perfect his own, "There's something in the soul that cries out for freedom", those were the cries that came from Tahrir Square, and the entire world has taken note, he said.

"Egyptians have inspired us, and they've done so by putting the lie to the idea that justice is best gained through violence; for in Egypt it was the moral force of nonviolence -- not terrorism, not mindless killing, but nonviolence, moral force -- that bent the arc of history toward justice once more," he said.

Obama said Egypt has played a pivotal role in human history for over 6,000 years. "But over the last few weeks, the wheel of history turned at a blinding pace as the Egyptian people demanded their universal rights. We saw mothers and fathers carrying their children on their shoulders to show them what true freedom might look like.

"We saw protesters chant "salmiya, salmiya" -- we are peaceful -- again and again. We saw a military that would not fire bullets at the people they were sworn to protect. And we saw doctors and nurses rushing into the streets to care for those who were wounded, volunteers checking protesters to ensure that they were unarmed," the US President said.

Welcoming the resignation of Hosni Mubarak as the president of Egypt, Obama asked for an irreversible and credible process of transition of power in this country which has witnessed massive pro-democracy protests for more than two weeks now.

"There are very few moments in our lives where we have the privilege of witnessing history taking place. This is one of those moments. This is one of those times," Obama said in his remarks to the media.

Obama said that the Egyptian military must ensure credible transition of power.

"The people of Egypt have spoken, their voices have been heard, and Egypt will never be the same," Obama said.

"By stepping down, President Mubarak responded to the Egyptian people's hunger for change. But this is not the end of Egypt's transition. It's a beginning. I'm sure there will be difficult days ahead, and many questions remain unanswered," said the US President.

Obama's remarks were delayed by about 100 minutes because was in the White House Situation Room meeting with his national security team.

Earlier he dropped by a previously schedule Principals Committee meeting convened by National Security Advisor Tom Donilon to discuss current developments in Egypt.

Meanwhile, the United States on Friday said that there is "no need to fear" from democracy in Egypt as a section of Americans expressed apprehension that the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood might grab power through ballet.

"I don't think we have to fear democracy. I think that whenever the will of the people shapes the demands of those that govern it, that's what many had in mind with democracy and representation," outgoing Press Secretary Robert Gibbs told mediapersons at his last press conference.

Ending the 30-year-old despotic regime in the most populous Arab nation, President Hosni Mubarak finally resigned yesterday and delegated power to the military.

"We don't know the ultimate outcome of what free and fair elections (in Egypt) will be. We don't have a sense of who that next leader will be... But we will continue to have important relationships. This is a volatile region of the world. The relationships bilaterally that we have bring some measure of stability and peace to the region," Gibbs asserted.

"Obviously, there's still great work to do to bring peace throughout this region, and the (US) President has worked tirelessly with the team on that. But there will be many days ahead to see what comes next here. It's important. We will continue to talk about, as we did with the Egyptian government, of the universal values that we hold dear," he said.

"I don't think we have to fear democracy," Gibbs said, adding this was a group of demonstrations and protests that demonstrated the breadth of concern across Egyptian society.

"So I think what you've seen is the breadth of cause and concern that had to have been addressed, needed to be addressed by the government, and I think today was the very first step in that process," he asserted.

The White House Press Secretary said in the past 18 days the world has seen sweeping change which is unlike anything they it has ever seen in a short period of time.

"I think the next process of this is going to play out over a much longer arc. We will continue to be involved and to ensure that the transitional government in Egypt and ultimately the government that the people choose to represent the people of Egypt," he said.

"If they take the steps that are necessary to meet the concerns of those in Egypt, then this government will be a strong partner to it and to all of our friends in the region," Gibbs said.

Lalit K Jha in Washington
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