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Transition to democracy in Egypt 'must begin now' - Obama

RIA Novosti

09:30 02/02/2011 MOSCOW, February 2 (RIA Novosti) - U.S. President Barack Obama has said the "orderly transition" in Egypt "must begin now," stopping short of calling for Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak to leave his office.

Obama's statement came late on Tuesday following Mubarak's announcement that he would not run in early elections due in September, which meant the veteran president was planning to stay in office for eight more months.

In his four-minute speech, Obama warned of "difficult days ahead" for Egypt, adding that the transition to democracy in Egypt must be "meaningful" and "peaceful" and "include a broad spectrum of Egyptian voices and opposition parties."

"We've borne witness to the beginning of new chapter in the history of a great country and a long-time partner of the United States," the U.S. President said, speaking after a telephone conversation with Mubarak.

The Egyptian president, he said, "recognizes that the status quo is not sustainable and that a change must take place."

In his address to the nation late on Tuesday, Mubarak said he would end his career "for the sake of the nation" and would focus on major reforms to assure a "peaceful transfer of power" in his remaining month in office.

Egypt has been hit by large-scale opposition protests since January 25. The unrest has already claimed the lives of at least 300 people and injured several thousand others.

On Tuesday, up to 2 million people attended a major demonstration on Cairo's central Tahrir Square, demanding the resignation of Mubarak, who has been in power for more than three decades.

Egypt's leading opposition figure Mohammed ElBaradei called on Mubarak on Tuesday to step down and leave the country, saying that this was a necessary condition for the start of a dialogue between the opposition and the government.

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