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Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak announced Tuesday that he will not seek another term in September after 30 years of rule, a move that caps a week of scrambling by the Obama administration to respond to growing political unrest in Cairo.
“I do not intend to run for the coming presidency. I have exhausted my life serving Egypt and its people, however I am totally keen on ending my career for the sake of the nation in a way that guarantees handing over the banner in an atmosphere of stability,” Mubarak said, according to a translation of the speech he gave to the nation.
“I will end my career in a manner that is appreciable to God and my fellow Egyptians,” he added. “Our people will brave the crisis.”
Senate Foreign Relations Chairman John Kerry said he has knowledge of what is “being worked on” regarding Mubarak’s future and said it is important to give the beleaguered Egyptian leader “the space to be able to maneuver” as he proceeds.
“I think that’s happening,” the Massachusetts Democrat said. “It’ll fall into place.” He declined to comment further, saying, “It would be premature to get out front of what’s happening, what may or may not happen.”
Kerry is one of several Senators who have called in recent days for Mubarak to step down — a sharp contrast to President Barack Obama’s cautious response to the situation.
“Mr. Mubarak will have to go,” Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) wrote in a Monday editorial on the Gainesville Sun’s website.
“The next presidential election in Egypt is scheduled for September of this year. ... Mubarak must immediately open these elections to international observers and give his written assurance that his name won’t appear as a contender. I believe this could help quell the protest,” Nelson wrote.
Other Senators said they were allowing Obama to lead on the issue, given the balancing act of treating Mubarak as an ally while advocating for human rights and fair elections in the country.
“They’re trying to thread a needle that’s very, very important. So I appreciate the task at hand, and I don’t want to get in the way of that task by opening my big mouth and saying something I shouldn’t,” Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) said.
Obama spent Tuesday in and out of meetings and getting updates on the fast-changing situation in Cairo. During a morning Cabinet meeting, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton reviewed the administration’s focus on opposing violence, supporting human rights and backing “an orderly transition to a government that is responsive to the aspirations of the Egyptian people,” according to a White House readout of the meeting. The president was also briefed by his senior national security team in the afternoon.
White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs canceled an afternoon press briefing as news broke of Mubarak’s impending speech.