US Vice President Joe Biden says the time has not come for Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak to resign despite mass anti-government protests.
He made the statement as continued clashes between government forces and opposition protesters have left at least 27 people dead and hundreds injured. The protesters want Mubarak to end his 29-year reign.
Expressing his government’s support for the embattled Egyptian president, Biden said; “Mubarak has been an ally of ours in a number of things. And he’s been very responsible on, relative to geopolitical interest in the region, the Middle East peace efforts; the actions Egypt has taken relative to normalizing relationship with – with Israel.”
Biden went on to say that he “would not refer to him as a dictator.”
The US government provides more than $1.3 billion in military aid to Mubarak regime annually.
In response to a question by the PBS NewsHour host Jim Lehrer who asked if the time has “come for President Mubarak of Egypt to go?” the vice president answered: “No. I think the time has come for President Mubarak to begin to move in the direction that – to be more responsive to some… of the needs of the people out there.”
The mass protests have been erupted in Egypt and a number of Arab states after the Tunisian government collapsed.
The wave of volatile protests gripping Egypt has put the Obama administration in a tricky position as it weighs public criticism of Mubarak, who has been a consistent US ally on issues ranging from combating terrorism to direct talks between Israel and the Palestinians.
On Friday, US President Barack Obama urged the Egyptian government to stop the use of violence and reverse its decision to suspend Internet and cell phone access as the country grapples with massive street protests.
“I want to be very clear in calling out the Egyptian authorities to refrain from any violence against peaceful protesters,” Obama said in his first extended public comments on the Egypt protests.
“The people of Egypt have rights that are universal … these are human rights, and the United States will stand up for them everywhere,” he noted.
Earlier in the day, White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said the United States is reviewing its $1.5 billion in aid to Egypt in light of the government’s strong response to protesters who have demanded more rights.
Obama on Friday said he had spoken with Mubarak and urged him to restore phone and Internet access to citizens.
“At the same time, those protesting in the streets have a responsibility to express themselves peacefully,” he said. “Violence and destruction will not lead to the reforms that they seek.”