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Change leaders now,but don’t rush elections: Hillary

This reflected the makings of a consensus approach,with German Chancellor Angela Merkel echoing Hillary’s views.

Looking for a way forward in Egypt after its President Hosni Mubarak assured that neither he nor his son would contest the upcoming elections,US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Saturday threw her weight behind the transition effort and charted out a roadmap that would end with free and fair elections under international observers.

This reflected the makings of a consensus approach,with German Chancellor Angela Merkel echoing Hillary’s views. “Change must be shaped,it should be peaceful and sensible,” Merkel said.

British Prime Minister David Cameron too stepped in: “We want to see a transition with proper building blocks of democracy in place.”

Speaking at the Munich Security Conference,Hillary elaborated on this: “The process should not only be transparent and sincere,but also concrete so that it can be measured. We hope this proceeds peacefully and it will be possible to hold elections with international observers after sufficient preparation.”

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Making her remarks soon after the news of an assassination attempt on Vice-President Omar Suleiman,Hillary also highlighted the sabotage attempt on the Egypt-Israel gas pipeline as she appealed to the demonstrators to give the transition process time.

Israel’s National Security Advisor Uzi Arad,also present,said Israel has had to “stretch defences with respect to Egypt” and while it does not think peace treaties will be annulled,Israel fears that any deterioration would end up “undercutting existing security cooperation” that is vital to keep peace.

These fears reflected in Hillary’s remarks too. “There are forces which are trying to derail this process. It is important to support the Egyptian transition process and ensure that it is transparent and inclusive. The outcome must be an orderly conduct of elections in September,” she told the Munich Security Conference.

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Hillary recalled her earlier conversation with Merkel,who told her how she had realised the importance of giving time for changes to take shape after the fall of the Berlin Wall,to make the point that “it takes time to think things through”.

Hillary said,“Principles are clear but operational details are complex and challenging”. Her view was strengthened by what Barack Obama’s envoy Frank Wisner reported after his talks in Cairo with Mubarak,Suleiman and others.

Speaking to the Conference from New York,as news came that Mubarak had resigned from the leadership of his party,Wisner presented a slightly more hopeful picture: “In the last day or so a way forward is beginning to show. Mubarak has said he will not contest the next elections. The government should now be able to build a consensus,carry out a national dialogue. Take concrete steps like putting aside the emergency law and hold free,fair elections.”

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Wisner,however,emphasised that these were “fragile glimmerings” and things could go wrong. He urged governments in the west to “control the rhetoric like the President (Mubarak) must go”. According to him,Mubarak’s role still remains “utterly critical” and that the US and Europe should be “responsible advisors and friends” to Egypt in what is still a “volatile” situation.

Clinton has had meetings on the Egypt crisis and clearly the emphasis is now on moving forward. There is reportedly a consensus on the assessment that any immediate change could create a “vacuum” that could be exploited in more “dangerous ways.”

First published on: 06-02-2011 at 12:42:14 am
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