Feb. 1, 2011 — -- President Obama today told embattled Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak that relinquishing power was the right decision, but the transition to a new government "must begin now."
The remarks were a direct response to Mubarak's announcement that he would not seek another term in office when elections are held in September.
Though the White House had carefully avoided a firm position on the protests in Egypt for the first several days of demonstrations, today it the president stated openly that he supports a new regime in Egypt.
"An orderly transition must be meaningful," he said. "It must be peaceful and it must begin now."
Obama also praised the peaceful demonstrators in Egypt, calling them an "inspiration to people around the world."
"To the people of Egypt, particularly the young people of Egypt, I want to be clear," Obama said today. "We hear your voices."
For Complete Coverage of the Crisis in Egypt, Featuring Exclusive Reporting From Christiane Amanpour, Click Here
According to a White House official, Obama spoke to Murabak for about 30 minutes today.
Obama said that Mubarak knew stepping aside after the end of his term was the right thing for his country.
"He recognizes that the status quo is not sustainable and that a change must take place," he said.
But Mubarak's announcement that he will stay through his term did little to appease protesters calling for his immediate removal.
"My first responsibility is to restore the security and stability of the homeland, to achieve a peaceful transition of power in a way that will protect Egypt and Egyptians, and that will allow for responsibility to be given to whomever the people elect in the forthcoming elections," Mubarak said in his second speech to the nation since the protests began a week ago.
A stoic Mubarak announced that he will ask the new government to speed up elections, which are scheduled to be held in September. He vowed to honor people's demands, to protect the citizens honestly and end corruption.
Striking a patriotic tone and emphasizing his military background, the 82-year-old president, who has held on to power for 30 years, defended his own record and suggested he will die on Egyptian soil even when he steps down.
"I never wanted power or prestige, and people know the difficult circumstances in which I shouldered responsibility. ... I have spent enough time preserving Egypt," Mubarak said. "History will judge me."
Crowds in Tahrir, or Liberation, Square, in Cairo cheered loudly as Mubarak made his announcement. But while the mood was jubilant, Mubarak's message wasn't enough for many. Protestors shouted, "Go now! Go! Go!" and, "We will not go. You go, Mubarak."
Demonstrators, now in their eighth straight day of protests, vowed to stay in the square until Mubarak leaves office.
And just hours after his speech, Al Jazeera was reporting there were shots fired in Alexandria during violent clashes between pro-Mubarak and anti-goverment demonstrators.
Mubarak made his announcement just hours after President Obama's special envoy suggested to Egypt's embattled president that he not run for re-election, and that his son Gamal not run either. Obama watched Mubarak's speech in the White House Situation Room.