Mubarak may not be able to step down soon: Clinton

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Lalit K Jha

Washington, Feb 7 (PTI) US Secretary of State HillaryClinton has said Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak might not beable to quit his post as early as being demanded by theprotesters as the transition process will take some time toroll out.

Clinton described Mubarak''s assurance of not runningfor the presidency again and the dialogue on constitutionalreform initiated in the country as "significant actions" butsaid if Mubarak resigns immediately, presidential electionwould have to be held in 60 days under the Egyptianconstitution.

"He (Mubarak) announced he wouldn''t run again. Heannounced his son wouldn''t run again. He announced he wasresigning his position of the national party, and his son wasresigning his position at the national party. He installed avice president for the first time in 30 years. Those aresignificant actions," Clinton told reporters on her way backfrom international talks on Egypt in Germany.

She said these were only preliminary steps and do notconstitute an orderly transition but welcomed the process ofdialogue that has started with the opposition.

"... but I think they have to be viewed as a veryimportant set of steps being taken to keep the movement goingin the direction that we seek," she said.

Referring to the Egyptian constitution, she said ifthe President were to resign, he would be succeeded by theSpeaker of the house and presidential elections would have tobe held in 60 days, and suggested that this is too short atime to arrive at final constitutional reforms.

"Now, the Egyptians are the ones who are having tograpple with the reality of what they must do. And maybe Imisheard it, but on CNN this morning... one of the leaders inthe Muslim Brotherhood, and Al-Baradei, they were saying,''Well, it''s going to take time. Now, that''s not us saying it,it''s them saying it," she said.

She said once the protests have gotten the attentionof the government and the government has launched a response,there is already an effort underway within the civil society,the opposition, the political parties, to decide the futurecourse of action.

"That''s a really hard issue. I don''t think it''sappropriate for us to be sitting thousands of miles awaysaying, ''Well, this is what you should do, and that''s what youshould do'', and, ''Oh, everybody knows that''s self-evident'',"Clinton said.

She said it is for the country of 80 million people,with a very complex political, economic, and social realitiesto move ahead in a new direction.

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