Obama Administration Conveying Specific Reform Ideas to Mubarak

Jan 30, 2011 7:39am

While President Obama is publicly shying away from specifics, the Obama administration is behind-the-scenes conveying to Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak some specific steps President Obama feels he needs to take, administration officials tells ABC News.

Mubarak needs to outline a “concrete process” for political and social progress, a senior administration official says, including:

a. Dialogue between the government and opposition groups as well as “Civil Society” (democratic reform groups, human rights organizations and so on) needs to begin immediately.

b. Freedom of information needs to be fully respected — cell phone service is back but access to the internet is still sporadic, and satellite access for Al Jazeera has been blocked.

c. The emergency law, in place since 1967 — which gives the government far-reaching powers at the expense of judicial review and civil liberties — needs to be lifted.

The senior administration official says Mubarak needs to commence at once with democratic, economic and social reforms.

“They’re going to have to do that,” the official said. “Their people are fed up.”

The official noted that some of the president’s language in his statement Friday night — “Suppressing ideas never makes them go away,” for instance, or the language on universal rights — was directly lifted from the president’s 2009 Cairo speech, in which he called for the Muslim world to respect fundamental universal rights.

“We felt the U.S. push for democracy in the region had become — rightly or wrongly, fairly or not — associated with US attempts to dictate political outcomes in countries,” the official said. “We wanted to change the conversation to support for a universal set of rights,” and not be seen as pushing for any specific desired outcome.

This helps explain why the U.S. is not calling for Mubarak to step down, the official said: the argument is that the U.S. shouldn’t pick the leaders of other countries, the Egyptian people should. It’s the flip side of the doctrine that President Obama doesn’t push for specific leaders in other countries to be elected but rather expresses his desire for free and fair elections — sometimes that may be seen as tacit support for incumbent dictators.

- Jake Tapper

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