Video: Obama to Egypt: ‘We hear your voices’

  1. Closed captioning of: Obama to Egypt: ‘We hear your voices’

    >> these protesters almost to a person want nothing less than the american president to come out four square behind them in support. the problem is for the u.s., diplomacy works more delicately than that. they know that friends of theirs, saudi arabia and jordan are watching closely. that's the dicey circumstance for the white house . our white house correspondent savannah guthrie is there watching all of that tonight. savannah, good evening.

    >> reporter: good evening, brian. we await a reaction from president obama , he's expected to address the cameras any minute now. he spoke to hosni mubarak for about a half hour. after mubarak made that speech, the president met with his national security team on this egypt issue for more than an hour today. they watched the speech from inside the situation room. and we've learned that frank wisner , who's a veteran diplomat diplomat, retired was dispatched by the obama administration to speak to mubarak and did speak to him on monday. the message from president obama was don't run for re-election in september. that is exactly what mubarak said today. it does not seem to make the protesters happy. we expect to hear from the president any moment now, brian.

    >> savannah guthrie , continuing to watch things at the white house .

Barack Obama
Evan Vucci  /  AP
President Barack Obama speaks about the situation in Egypt in the Grand Foyer of the White House in Washington on Tuesday.
By

Confronted by scenes of bloody chaos in Cairo, the White House on Wednesday challenged Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak to show the world "exactly who he is" by quickly leading a peaceful transition to democracy. That outcome seemed ever more elusive.

An Egyptian official complained that the U.S. was pressing for Mubarak's swift departure even as President Barack Obama publicly urges an orderly transition. "There is a clear contradiction between an orderly process of transition and the insistence that this process be rushed," said the official, who was speaking for his government but said the government would not allow his name to be associated with the statement.

"Now means now," White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said, and he declared anew that continued aid to Egypt would be influenced by the Egyptian government's response to the crisis.

Video: Obama to Egypt: ‘We hear your voices’ (on this page)

While the U.S. has not directly called for Mubarak to resign — the protesters' chief demand — Gibbs was echoing Obama's public call one night earlier for an immediate and orderly transition to democracy in Egypt. Instead the images on TV were of a brutal clash between protesters and Mubarak supporters.

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"If any of the violence is instigated by the government, it should stop immediately," Gibbs said, while declining to speculate whether the Egyptian government was in fact behind the violence. Protesters contended plainclothes police were among the pro-Mubarak groups.

The White House said it had had no indication that such violence was in the offing when Obama and Mubarak had spoken frankly Tuesday night. The Egyptian president announced on television that he would not seek re-election in September, but protesters want him out now.

Obama team trying to evaluate what's next
With Mubarak's grip on his country in doubt, Obama's team is evaluating scenarios of what may come next. But the conflict underscores the limits of the American president's power to shape the outcome.

Story: U.S., caught off guard by Egypt, tries balancing act

Obama has spelled out what Egypt's transition to free elections should look like, but he has refused to say whether Mubarak should be in charge all the while.

Obama has spoken to Mubarak and telephoned fellow world leaders to try to bolster stability in the region, but he cannot stop violence in the streets of Cairo. To the degree Obama has spelled out consequences of inaction to Mubarak, the White House will not say much publicly.

Obama also is trying to find a balance between responding appropriately to events without being sucked up in hour-by-hour reaction. Gibbs said history was being made, and "this is not all going to be wrapped up in a matter of hours. It's going to take some time."

Unrest in Cairo's main square
Thousands of supporters and opponents of Mubarak battled in Cairo's main square on Wednesday, throwing stones, bottles and firebombs as soldiers stood by without intervening. The fighting started when several thousand Mubarak supporters, including some riding horses and camels and wielding whips, attacked anti-government protesters.

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The White House said Obama found the images deplorable.

The unrest in Egypt was sparked by an uprising in Tunisia and is reverberating throughout the region. King Abdullah of Jordan on Tuesday sacked his government and named a new prime minister, bowing to public pressure. The United States expressed hope Wednesday that pro-Western governments in Jordan and Yemen could stave off revolutions.

Gibbs said Obama had received no indication from Mubarak Tuesday night about what was going to unfold on Wednesday in Cairo.

Gibbs didn't directly answer when asked whether Obama viewed Mubarak as a dictator, saying the Egyptian president had a chance to show who he was. Mubarak has been an important ally to the U.S. during his 30-year reign, ensuring passage through the Suez Canal and maintaining peace with Israel. But for many Egyptian people, these have been years of corrosive poverty, repression and corruption.

Possible ripple effects
Steve Clemons of the New America Foundation, one of several Middle East experts who met with Obama and his advisers on Monday, said the president and his team realize this is not the last quake in the region.

"There's a sense that the team in the White House has that they can't just be Egypt focused, that everything they say and do here has got to begin to become a frame for what sorts of principles we stand for," Clemons said. "And that just being for democracy, freedom and freedom of assembly is vapid, that there has to be a deeper commitment to some structural changes. I don't think anybody really knows what that means yet."

Gibbs said the U.S. expects that whatever government comes into power will respect the treaties entered into by previous Egyptian governments — a clear reference to Egypt's peace agreement with Israel, which has provided an important measure of stability for the region.

American officials are keen to promote an ordered transition that safeguards Egypt's status as a powerful American ally in the Middle East, instrumental in promoting Arab-Israeli peace, countering Iran's growing influence and fighting terrorism.

Across the Arabian peninsula in Yemen, which al-Qaida has turned into a main battleground in the war on terror, President Ali Abdullah Saleh pledged not to seek another term in an attempt to head off his country's version of the unrest that has spread through the Arab world since Tunisian protesters overthrew their president last month.

U.S. officials said they were pleased with Saleh's agreement to include opposition elements in a reform process after over three decades dominating the political landscape in his country. Saleh is seen as an increasingly important partner of the United States, allowing American drone strikes on al-Qaida targets and stepping up counterterrorism cooperation.

Administration officials are hopeful that Saleh's move toward reconciliation with Yemen's opposition can provide momentum for significant democratic reforms. The officials, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the situation, said the U.S. would encourage all parties to engage in a national dialogue to help the impoverished, violence-wracked country in its transition.

The United States also was keeping a close watch on developments in Jordan, a similarly key ally and the only Arab country in addition to Egypt to have concluded a peace agreement with Israel.

Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Photos: World reaction

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  1. Palestinian supporters of the Al-Tahrir Islamic party shout slogans in support of the protesters in Egypt who forced President Hosni Mubarak to resign, as they march in a rally in Gaza City on Feb. 13. (Mahmud Hams / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  2. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu opens the weekly cabinet meeting at his office on Feb. 13, in Jerusalem, Israel. The meeting comes following Netanyahu welcoming a pledge by Egypt's new military rulers to uphold Israel's 1979 peace treaty. (Pool / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  3. Algerian protesters chant slogans during a demonstration in Algiers, Algeria, Saturday, Feb. 12. Thousands of people defied a government ban on demonstrations and poured into the Algerian capital for a pro-democracy rally Saturday, a day after weeks of mass protests toppled Egypt's authoritarian leader. (Sidali Djarboub / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  4. An Egyptian demonstrator wipes her eyes during a rally in Trafalgar Square, in central London Feb. 12. (Luke MacGregor / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  5. Sawsan Selim, 13, left, and her brother, Ahmad, 10, right, both Egyptian-Americans living in Atlanta, flash peace signs during a celebration of the ousting of Egypt's President Hosni Mubarak Saturday, Feb. 12, in downtown Atlanta. (David Goldman / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  6. Amman

    Jordanian girls celebrate in front of the Egyptian embassy in Amman on Tuesday, Feb. 10. Egypt's military announced on national television it had stepped in to secure the country and promised protesters calling for President Hosni Mubarak's ouster that all their demands would soon be met. (Jamal Nasrallah / EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  7. Jakarta

    Indonesian protesters raise their fists and shout slogans during a protest outside the embassy of Egypt in Jakarta, Indonesia, on Feb. 8. (Mast Irham / EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  8. Amman

    A Jordanian protester holds a Jordanian national flag with a picture of late Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser during a protest against President Hosni Mubarak in front of the Egyptian embassy in Amman, Feb. 8. (Muhammad Hamed / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  9. Calcutta

    Activists of the Socialist Unity Centre of India burn two effigies of Mubarak and President Barack Obama as they call for Mubarak to step down during a rally in Calcutta, India, Feb. 7. (Piyal Adhikary / EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  10. Istanbul

    Supporters of the pro-Islamic HAS Party march with a camel during a protest against Egypt's President Hosni Mubarak in central Istanbul, Feb. 6. (Murad Sezer / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  11. Bethlehem

    A worshipper attends a special prayer for the people of Egypt at the Roman Catholic Melkite Church in the West Bank town of Bethlehem, Feb. 6. (Ammar Awad / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  12. Los Angeles

    Two boys run with Egyptian flags at a protest against the regime of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak in the Westwood neighborhood of Los Angeles, Calif., Feb. 5. (Eric Thayer / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  13. Ramallah

    A Palestinian protester sets ablaze a U.S. flag on Feb. 5 in the center of the West Bank city of Ramallah during a demonstration in support of the anti-government protests in Egypt calling for an end to Hosni Mubarak's 30-year rule. (Abbas Momani / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  14. Berlin

    Egyptians living in Germany and their supporters hold a rally in Berlin on Feb. 5. (Johannes Eisele / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  15. Puri, India

    People jog past a sand sculpture of Egypt's President Hosni Mubarak created by the Indian sand artist Sudarshan Patnaik on a beach in Puri in the eastern Indian state of Bhubaneswar on Feb. 5. (Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  16. London

    Protestors wearing masks depicting Arab leaders demonstrate in support of the Egyptian people in their fight to overthrow Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, in London on Feb. 5. (Facundo Arrizabalaga / EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  17. Zurich

    Demonstrators, some of them Egyptians living in Switzerland, rally in Zurich on Feb. 5. Around 300 demonstrators showed their solidarity with the opposition movements in Tunisia and Egypt. (Alessandro Della Bella / Keystone via AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  18. Brussels

    Demonstrators chant slogans during a protest against Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak in front of the European Parliament in Brussels, Feb. 4. (Francois Lenoir / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  19. Istanbul

    A man holds a portrait of Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak with the slogan "No you can't" during a protest against Mubarak's regime following Friday prayers at the Beyazit Square in Istanbul, Turkey, on Feb. 4. (Bulent Kilic / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  20. Tehran

    Hundreds of Iranians attend a protest against Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak to express their solidarity with the Egyptian people, in Tehran, Iran, on Feb. 4. (Abedin Taherkenareh / EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  21. Jerusalem

    A Palestinian man watches news from Egypt on television inside his shop in Jerusalem's Old City on Feb. 3. (Bernat Armangue / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  22. Cape Town

    South Africans and Egyptians demonstrate in solidarity with the struggle of the Egyptian people in Cape Town, South Africa, on Feb. 4. (Nic Bothma / EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  23. Kuala Lumpur

    A demonstration against Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak in front of the U.S. embassy in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia on Feb. 4. (Saeed Khan / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  24. London

    Demonstrators wave an Egyptian flag and yell slogans during a protest outside a Vodafone store in London on Thursday, Feb. 3. Mobile operator Vodafone accused the Egyptian authorities of using its network to send pro-government text messages to subscribers, as telecom firms became further embroiled in the crisis in Egypt where large gatherings of anti-government protesters are calling for the ouster of President Hosni Mubarak. (Andrew Winning / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  25. Gaza City

    Palestinian Hamas supporters hold signs and Egyptian flags during a demonstration calling for the removal of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak outside the Egyptian representative's office in Gaza City on Thursday, Feb. 3. (Adel Hana / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  26. Bucharest

    Members of the Egyptian community in Romania shout anti-governmental slogans and hold signs reading "Down with Mubarak" outside the Egyptian embassy in Bucharest on Feb. 3 during a protest asking for Mubarak to resign, and for democratic and non-violent reforms in Egypt. (Daniel Mihailescu / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  27. Beirut

    Lebanese riot policemen clash with demonstrators during a rally supporting the ouster of Mubarak in front of the Egyptian Embassy in Beirut, Lebanon, on Feb. 3. (Wael Hamzeh / EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  28. Paris

    A demonstrator holds a paper that reads "Mubarak kills his people" during a protest in Paris on Feb. 3. Dozens of protestors gathered in a show of support for protests currently taking place in Egypt. (Francois Mori / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  29. Tel Aviv

    Israeli-Arabs and Egyptians attend a demonstration close to the Egyptian embassy in Tel Aviv, Israel, to protest against the Egyptian government on Tuesday, Feb. 1. (Oliver Weiken / EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  30. London

    Egyptians demonstrate outside the Egyptian embassy in London, Feb. 1. Egyptians in London gathered in solidarity with anti-government protesters in Egypt who are demanding that President Hosni Mubarak step down. Similar protests occurred around the world. (Andy Rain / EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  31. Athens

    Protesters hold up an Egyptian flag during a demonstration in central Athens, Feb. 1. More than 200 Egyptian immigrants and Greek supporters gathered outside the Egyptian embassy in Athens in a peaceful protest. (Kostas Tsironis / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  32. Berlin

    Protesters rally in front of the foreign ministry in Berlin, Feb. 1. (Lukas Kreibig / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  33. Amsterdam

    A girl joins hundreds of people protesting against the Egyptian president at the Dam Square in Amsterdam, Feb. 1. (Evert Elzinga / EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  34. Bangkok

    A Thai anti-government "red shirt" protester holds a rock as he attends a protest in front of the Egyptian Embass in Bangkok, Feb. 1. (Damir Sagolj / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  35. Philadelphia

    Dr. Gertrude Copperman and others demonstrate in support of the Egyptian people in Philadelphia, Jan. 31. (Matt Rourke / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  36. Tunis

    Tunisian students shout slogans during a demonstration in solidarity with Egyptian protesters on Habib Bourguiba Avenue in Tunis, Jan. 31. (Fethi Belaid / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  37. New York City

    A man holds up a picture of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak during a protest against his regime outside of the Egyptian mission to the United Nations in New York City, Jan. 31. (Spencer Platt / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  38. Morocco

    Moroccan demonstrators chant slogans during a protest outside the Egyptian embassy in Rabat, Jan. 31. Morocco is watching nervously as other North African countries erupt in revolt, with warnings even from within the royal family that it will probably not be spared. (Abdelhak Senna / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  39. Rome

    A demonstrator shouts slogans as others wave Egyptian flags during a protest in support of the Egyptian people, in central Rome, Italy, Jan. 31. (Andrew Medichini / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  40. Jakarta

    Indonesian activists release doves during a protest in support of the Egyptian people in Jakarta, Indonesia, Jan. 31. (Dita Alangkara / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  41. Seoul

    Egyptians living in South Korea and South Korean protesters shout slogans during a rally denouncing Egypt's President Hosni Mubarak's rule near the Egypt Embassy in Seoul, South Korea, Jan. 31. (Lee Jin-man / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  42. Houston

    Doaa Khedr, with her daughter, Maryam Ali, 1, protests along with others outside the Egyptian Consulate in Houston, Texas, Jan. 30. (Melissa Phillip / The Houston Chronicle via AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  43. Gaza

    Hamas militant Mohammed Abdil Hadi is greeted by his mother upon his arrival home in the southern Gaza Strip, Jan. 30. He had fled Cairo's Abu Zaabal prison as it was raided on Saturday by an Egyptian mob. Egypt closed its crossing with the Gaza Strip on Sunday as countrywide protests spread to the border area. (Ibraheem Abu Mustafa / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  44. Dubai

    A stock market screen is seen at the Dubai Financial Market as stock markets in several Gulf countries dropped on mounting concerns over Egypt's future, Jan. 30. (Karim Sahib / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  45. Los Angeles

    Protesters rally against Egypt's President Hosni Mubarak outside the Federal Building in the Westwood neighborhood of Los Angeles, Calif., Jan. 29. (Eric Thayer / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  46. Atlanta

    Arny Soejoedi, 17, joined several hundred anti-Mubarak protesters in downtown Atlanta, Jan. 29. (Rich Addicks / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  47. Washington

    A crowd chants in front of the White House in Washington, Jan. 29, demanding that Mubarak step down. (Alex Brandon / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  48. Beirut

    A Lebanese protester holds up a placard during a demonstration supporting Mubarak's ouster at the Egyptian embassy in Beirut, Jan. 29. (Wael Hamzeh / EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  49. Paris

    A man holds a banner reading "solidarity with Egyptian people, Mubarak murderer" during a demonstration near the Egyptian embassy in Paris, France, Jan. 29. (Tara James / EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  50. Gaza City

    Palestinians wait to fill petrol containers in Gaza. Gaza Strip residents flocked to petrol stations after clashes in neighboring Egypt hampered smugglers ferrying fuel supplies through tunnels that run under the border into the enclave, witnesses said. (Ahmed Zakot / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  51. Damascus, Syria

    Syrian and Palestinian militants hold candles near the Egyptian embassy in Damascus to express support for Egyptian protesters, Jan. 29. (Youssef Badawi / EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  52. Washington

    Amal Elbahi, originally from Cairo, speaks at a protest near the Egyptian Embassy in Washington, Jan. 29. Demonstrators held signs and chanted, demanding that Mubarak step down. They also criticized the Obama administration's response to the clashes in Egypt. (Alex Brandon / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  53. Mexico City

    Protesters hold signs that read "Out Mubarak" while standing outside Egypt's embassy in Mexico City, Jan. 29. (Stringer/mexico / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  54. Cambridge, Mass.

    Protesters walk through Cambridge, Mass., as they protest against Mubarak and call for massive government reforms, Jan. 29. (Lisa Poole / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  55. Seattle

    Mohamed Sadek, who is from Egypt, but lives in Redmond, Wash., holds a sign comparing the number of U.S. presidents who have been in power while Egyptian president Hosni Mubarakat has been in office. Several hundred people gathered in downtown Seattle, Jan. 29, to show their support and solidarity for anti-government demonstrations in Egypt. (Ted S. Warren / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
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