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Egypt street violence: Few options for Obama administration

President Obama says an 'orderly transition' to a post-Mubarak government 'must begin now.' But the president of Egypt is digging in his heels, refusing to relinquish power any time soon.

Protesters listen to an announcement by Egyptian President Mubarak from a makeshift television projector in Tehrir Square on Tuesday, February 1. On Wednesday, there were violent clashes between pro-democracy protesters and those supportive of President Hosni Mubarak.

Ann Hermes/The Christian Science Monitor

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As Egypt’s political crisis degenerated into violent clashes between pro-democracy protesters and those supportive of President Hosni Mubarak, the United States Wednesday did little more than reiterate its calls for a speedy transition to democracy.

The Obama administration has already taken sides, expressing support for the “legitimate needs and grievances expressed by the Egyptian people,” as Secretary of State Hillary Clinton puts it. It’s promised – read “threatened” – a review of the $1.5 billion the US provides Egypt every year in foreign aid, most of that for military and other security programs. And President Obama has called for an “orderly transition” to a post-Mubarak government that “must begin now."

But the Egyptian president – whose one-man rule has lasted nearly 30 years – is digging in his heels, refusing to relinquish power until next September’s elections there.

In a tough statement, the Egyptian Foreign Ministry said foreign calls for a democratic transition to begin now were "rejected and aimed to incite the internal situation in Egypt."

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