Thursday, 24 March 2011

US Defense Secretary Robert Gates urges Egypt to take time over elections

US Defense Secretary Robert Gates has urged Egypt's interim leaders to take time over new elections, pointing out that the country's various political groups, who helped oust president Hosni Mubarak, need time to organise themselves into political parties.

During a two day visit to Cairo, Gates said he wanted to reassure Egypt of Washington's commitment to help the country transition into a democracy. The US is somewhat concerned that early elections will mostly benefit the country's main opposition party, the staunchly Islamist, Muslim Brotherhood (MB).

After talks with Egypt's interim prime minister, Essam Sharaf, Gates said: "I'm absolutely not going to second-guess either the Supreme Council or the interim government…I would simply say that we believe it is important to allow those new elements that have become active in Egyptian politics, some of them for the first time, to have the time to develop political parties and to develop organisation and structure," in order to “play the same kind of leading role in Egypt in the future that they played in bringing about this change in the first place."

Gates also met with Egypt's Military Leader Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi, to whom he spoke repeatedly during the protests, and commended the country's military for protecting the Egyptian people. Speaking to reporters after the meeting, Gates said: "He told me the Army would protect the people…And in everything that ensued, he and the Army kept their word."

Sources: WSJ, Reuters, AP, CNN International

For more news and expert analysis about Egypt, please see Egypt Politics & Security.

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