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When 'now' means yesterday

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Reuters photoBy Camille Elhassani

The White House has issued its strongest words yet on the situation in Egypt in the form of a clarification of the word "now."

On Tuesday, after calling President Hosni Mubarak, Egyptian president, Barack Obama, the US president, said, "What is clear - and what I indicated tonight to President Mubarak - is my belief that an orderly transition must be meaningful, it must be peaceful, and it must begin now."

But when that didn’t happen, Obama had his press secretary explain what the president meant by "now".

In his daily press briefing on Wednesday, Robert Gibbs, White House spokesman, said, "'Now' means yesterday ... what the people of Egypt want to see is not some process that starts a week, a month, or several months from now."

However, Obama has been behind closed doors all day, keeping the press at bay so we haven’t heard him explain the definition of the word "now".

But Gibbs was careful to reiterate the position that change in Egypt will not come from outside. He went on to say, "There are reforms that need to be undertaken, there are opposition entities that have to be included in the conversations as we move towards free and fair elections that we’ve advocated for quite some time."

With clashes between anti-government and pro-Mubarak supporters in Cairo, several US officials also urged restraint and an end to violence. A spokesman for the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff put out a statement saying that Admiral Mike Mullen spoke to his Egyptian counterpart, Lt-Gen Sami Enan and "reiterated his desire to see the situation return to calm and expressed his confidence in the Egyptian military's ability to provide for their country's security."

Obama has spoken a couple of times with Mubarak since the crisis began and Frank Wisner, former US ambassador to Egypt, was dispatched to deliver the message in person.

And although the message from Gibbs was stronger today, it still hasn’t been enough to move the Egyptian president

So, what comes after "now"?

Camille Elhassani is Al Jazeera English's Senior White House Producer.


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