US lawmakers cautiously cheer Mubarak departure

Hosni Mubarak has resigned
© AFP/File Khaled Desouki

AFP/Activist Post

WASHINGTON (AFP) – US lawmakers on Friday hailed Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak’s departure from power, but urged an “orderly” shift to democracy and voiced anxiety about the country’s future relations with Israel.

“This is an extraordinary moment for Egypt. Courageous and peaceful demands for freedom and opportunity have now won the Egyptian people a chance at a new beginning,” said Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman John Kerry.

But “now the hard work intensifies to prepare for free and fair elections,” said the Democratic lawmaker, who called on Egypt’s military to lift the state of emergency and set a “timetable” for the vote.

“What happens next will have repercussions far beyond Egypt’s borders. We know from recent experience in Gaza that this requires not just elections, but hard work to build a government that is transparent, accountable, and broadly representative,” he said.

“The United States must help Egyptians turn this democratic moment into a process that builds a government responsive to economic needs as well as demands for freedom,” said Kerry.

Republican Senator John McCain, one of the first US politicians to urge Mubarak to step down immediately, said Washington “stands fully ready” to help its ally “begin the hard work of democratic reform.”

“History will note that President Mubarak’s last action in office was in the best interest of the country he loves,” said McCain. “It is the right decision for Egypt.”

“The Egyptian people are demanding a meaningful and irreversible transition to democracy, and I urge the Egyptian military to faithfully support and secure the coming process of political change,” he said.

US Senator John Kerry
© AFP/File Jewel Samad

Kerry’s warning about the Hamas Islamist movement’s victory in Gaza elections echoed in other statements from top lawmakers evidently worried about the future of Egypt-Israel ties, cemented in there 1979 peace accord.

Republican Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, who chairs the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said the United States must “urge the unequivocal rejection of any involvement by the Muslim Brotherhood and other extremists who may seek to exploit and hijack these events to gain power.”

Such groups would “oppress the Egyptian people, and do great harm to Egypt’s relationship with the United States, Israel, and other free nations,” said Ros-Lehtinen, who urged constitutional reforms and an end to emergency laws.

“These are necessary for legitimate, democratic, internationally-recognized elections to take place with peaceful, responsible actors who will not only advance the aspirations of the Egyptian people, but will continue to enforce Egypt’s international obligations,” she said.

Democratic Senator Ben Cardin applauded Mubarak’s decision but urged Egypt “to continue to respect international treaties and security commitments made with the United States and other countries.”

“Despite our historical differences in respecting human rights and the rule of law, Egypt has long been a partner in working to ensure stability and combat terrorism in the Middle East. It is my hope that the new Egyptian government will continue to play an active role in these critical areas,” said Cardin.

Democratic Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said he was “pleased” by the news that Mubarak was stepping down

“It is crucial that Mubarak’s departure be an orderly one and that it leads to true democracy for Egypt, including free, fair and open elections,” said Reid, who underlined Washington would “closely” watch events in Egypt.

“We caution all sides against violence during this transition,” he said. “We wish the Egyptian people the best in their next steps toward determining their own future under a democratic process.”

Republican Senator Marco Rubio, a sharp critic of Cuba’s socialist government, hailed “an opportunity for the Egyptian people to chart a new, more hopeful and democratic future.”

“Today’s events should hearten those struggling for greater freedom and respect for human rights in our own Hemisphere,” said Rubio.

“We must give our full support to ensure an irreversible and nonviolent transition to genuine democracy. It is imperative that a new Egypt continues to honor its commitment to regional peace and security in the Middle East, especially to its neighbor Israel,” he said.

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