Egypt's Hosni Mubarak Names Vice President, Chaos Descends in Cairo


Egypt is one of United States' closest allies in the Middle East -- helping broker peace deals with Israel and fighting terrorism -- and any instability in the region could be gravely dangerous to U.S. interests in the region.

Administration officials are closely monitoring the situation, as evidenced by constant Tweets from State Department spokesman PJ Crowley.

"The #Egyptian government can't reshuffle the deck and then stand pat. President #Mubarak's words pledging reform must be followed by action," Crowley said in his latest Tweet.

The president met with his national security team this afternoon for a little more than an hour. The president was updated on the situation in Egypt and he reiterated the administration's focus on opposing violence and calling for restraint; supporting universal rights; and supporting concrete steps that advance political reform within Egypt, the White House said.

The U.S. government has stepped up pressure on Mubarak's government, calling on security forces to allow freedom of speech and saying it would reconsider the $1.5 billion in aid it gives to the country if violence were to escalate. But at the same time, they have been walking a fine line, telling both sides to practice restraint.

After a 30-minute phone conversation with Mubarak, President Obama took to the cameras Friday night, saying that the Egyptian president vowed to lay the groundwork for reforms to tackle the economy, unemployment and poverty in the country.

Obama said he told Mubarak "you have a responsibility to bring meaning to those words" and to make his promises come true.

Obama also called on the Egyptian to end its blockage of cell phones and the Internet, lecturing Mubarak that his people "have rights that are universal, rights to peaceful assembly... free speech and the right to determine their own destiny."

"There must be reform," Obama said bluntly, and at another point warned that the "U.S. will stand up for rights of Egyptian people."

The U.S. has made clear its disapproval of its ally's use of force to break up the massive protests, but administration officials have so far refused to directly implicate Mubarak, whose ouster is the focal point of this week's protests.

The United States had been urging Mubarak, a staunch U.S. ally, to make reforms to appease the protestors before they push him out of power. The administration has tried to support the right of the demonstrators to gather and protests, but does not want to see Mubarak fall and so they have urged him in public and in private to reform before it is too late.

The best case scenario for the administration is he makes the reforms and stays in power, but if he is toppled, analysts question whether the new leaders that fill the power vacuum will be as strongly allied with the U.S.

A number of Egyptians expressed frustration with the U.S. government and President Obama, telling ABC News that for all the talk about freedom, the U.S. is not supporting it in Egypt. One protester pointed to the fact that the tear gas canisters being used by the police are made in the U.S.

The Egyptian army was called to protect the U.S. embassy at the behest of the United States as anger against the West grew.

Protests have spread through Arab countries in recent weeks, starting with street demonstrations in Tunisia which forced its long-time president to flee. Since then, protests have erupted in Jordan, Egypt and Yemen, all U.S. allies.

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