Egypt's vice president on Tuesday said, the government will not tolerate prolonged anti-government protests in Cairo's main square.
Egypt's state-run MENA news agency quotes Vice President Omar Suleiman as saying that a crisis triggered by 16 days of anti-Mubarak protests in Tahrir Square must end "as soon as possible." Suleiman was speaking late Tuesday to a group of Egyptian newspaper editors.
However, President Barack Obama's spokesman criticized the Egyptian government for arresting and harassing journalists and rights activists, and called comments by Vice President Omar Suleiman that Egypt is not ready for democracy "particularly unhelpful."
MENA says Suleiman told the editors that the presence of anti-Mubarak activists and satellite television stations in the square was making Egyptian citizens "hesitant to go to work" and disrupting daily life. He accused the satellite television stations of "insulting" Egypt, without naming them.
But, Suleiman also is quoted as saying the government does not want to deal with Egyptian society using "police tools" and prefers to use dialogue to try to address the protesters' demands.
Suleiman also is quoted as warning against plans by some protesters for a campaign of civil disobedience, saying such a development would be "very dangerous" to society.
Earlier Tuesday, Vice President Suleiman said Mubarak issued decrees establishing separate committees to draft constitutional reforms and monitor their implementation. The reforms are aimed at relaxing eligibility rules for the presidency and imposing term limits - key demands of Egypt's opposition.
Suleiman said Mubarak also formed a third committee to investigate deadly fighting last week between his supporters and anti-government activists in Tahrir Square.
"Vice President Suleiman made some particularly unhelpful comments about Egypt not being ready for democracy," Gibbs said, adding, "I don't think that in any way squares with what those seeking greater opportunity and freedom think is a timetable for progress."
Gibbs also responded to Suleiman's arguament that foreign elements, including Islamists, are behind or motivating the protesters in Egypt.
"I think the rhetoric that we see coming out now that simply says that somehow what you see on TV has been drummed up by foreigners is at great odds with what we know is actually happening," Gibbs said.
The Egyptian vice president held unprecedented talks with several opposition groups on Sunday, but representatives of the Cairo street protesters did not participate.
The United Nations says protest-related violence in Egypt has killed more than 300 people since January 25.
AgenciesLast Mod: 09 Şubat 2011, 14:21