U.S. Vice President Joe Biden hailed Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak's exit from power on Friday as a "pivotal moment" for the Middle East and insisted Egypt's democratic transition must be irreversible.
Biden spoke shortly before President Barack Obama was to step before television cameras at the White House as he weighs the deep uncertainty and huge challenges Washington now faces in dealing with Egypt's potentially volatile power shift.
"The transition that's taking place must be an irreversible change and a negotiated path toward democracy," Biden told a college audience in Kentucky after Mubarak handed over power to Egypt's military. "What is at stake in Egypt and across the Middle East is not just about Egypt alone."
Though the U.S. role in Mubarak's resignation remained unclear, Mohamed Hussein Tantawi, head of the military council that took control on Friday, spoke with U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates by phone five times during the 18-day popular uprising, including as late as Thursday evening.
While viewing Tantawi as an ally committed to avoiding another war with Israel, in private some U.S. officials have depicted him as resistant to reform, according to a 2008 State Department cable released by the WikiLeaks website.
Obama was informed during an Oval Office meeting of Mubarak's decision to resign and then watched on television as crowds erupted in celebration in Cairo's central square.
"This is a pivotal moment in history," Biden said of Mubarak's departure. "It's a pivotal moment not only in Mideast history, but in history."
U.S lawmakers swiftly welcomed Mubarak's departure.
"I am pleased that President Mubarak has heard and heeded the voice of the Egyptian people, who have called for change. It is crucial that Mubarak's departure be an orderly one and that it leads to true democracy for Egypt, including free, fair and open elections," said Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid.
"We must also urge the unequivocal rejection of any involvement by the Muslim Brotherhood and other extremists who may seek to exploit and hijack these events to gain power, oppress the Egyptian people, and do great harm to Egypt's relationship with the United States, Israel, and other free nations," said Ros-Lehtinen.
ReutersGüncelleme Tarihi: 12 Şubat 2011, 09:14