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Obama Warns Against Violence, Urges Cairo to Institute Reforms

US President Barack Obama on Friday defended the rights of Egyptian protesters who have taken to the streets to demand political change, cautioning the government of President Hosni Mubarak to avoid violence and adopt “concrete steps that advance the rights of the Egyptian people,” reports The Washington Post.

Obama’s televised remarks capped a day of warnings from his administration — including a threat to review the aid package Egypt receives from the United States — that reflected the urgency of the crisis facing America’s most powerful ally in the Arab world.

Speaking after Mubarak announced that his cabinet would resign but gave no indication that he himself would step down, Obama called on Egyptian authorities to stop blocking access to the internet and other social media used by anti-government groups to coordinate protests. Obama did not say that Mubarak should leave office or hold elections, but he repeatedly emphasized that the rights of Egypt’s citizens should be respected.

“We’ve also been clear that there must be reform — political, social and economic reforms that meet the aspirations of the Egyptian people,” Obama said. “In the absence of these reforms, grievances have built up over time.”

Obama said he telephoned Mubarak late Friday after the Egyptian leader promised reforms in a televised address. “I told him he has a responsibility to give meaning to those words,” Obama said.

The remarks were his most forceful statement on the unrest in Egypt since major protests erupted Tuesday.

In his televised remarks Friday, Obama alluded to his Cairo speech, recalling his admonition to the region’s governments to “maintain power through consent, not coercion.”

“Surely there will be difficult days to come, but the United States will continue to stand up for the rights of the Egyptian people and work with their government in pursuit of a future that is more just, more free and more hopeful,” he concluded.