US steps up pressure on Cairo to end pro-democracy protests

Washington/Cairo, Feb.10 (ANI): The Obama administration has stepped up its criticism of Egypt's leadership after pro-democracy protests entered the 16th consecutive day on Wednesday against the 30-year-long rule of President Hosni Mubarak.

Spokesman Robert Gibbs said they had yet to take the "necessary steps" the country's people needed to see.

Wednesday saw protests in the capital Cairo spread to the parliament.

There are reports of widespread industrial action, and of protests outside Cairo turning violent.

The Egyptian government has announced plans for a peaceful transition, which see President Mubarak staying in office until elections in September, but opposition groups fear the government is stalling for time and will fail to enact meaningful changes.

There are also reports that have Egyptian Vice-President Omar Suleiman saying that if their movement doesn't enter negotiations, a "coup" could take place causing greater chaos.

According to the BBC, Suleiman's sharply worded warning cast a shadow over his efforts, backed by the US, to put together negotiations with the Opposition over reforms.

The protesters fear the regime will conduct only superficial reforms, so they insist they will only enter negotiations after Mubarak steps down.

The White House has found a form of words to distance itself from the idea it is dictating change.

It stresses that it is not what Obama wants, but what the Egyptian people want that matters.

But it means the White House has made the satisfaction of the demonstrators its yardstick of progress.

The BBC quoted Gibbs, as saying: "The government has not taken the necessary steps that the people of Egypt need to see. That's why more and more people come out to register their grievances. If there's some notion on the government side that you can put the genie back in this bottle, I think that's gone a long time ago."

He added that the US was reviewing its aid program to Egypt, and the government's restraint and reform would determine "what that aid will look like". (ANI)

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