Mubarak on TV demands Cabinet resignation

By The Associated Press

CAIRO — Embattled President Hosni Mubarak says he has asked his Cabinet to resign in his first appearance on television since protests erupted demanding his ouster.

He says he will press ahead with social, economic and political reforms. He calls anti-government protests part of plot to destabilize Egypt and destroy the legitimacy of his regime.

He is defending security forces’ crackdown on protesters.

Protesters have seized the streets of Cairo, battling police with stones and firebombs, burning down the ruling party headquarters, and defying a night curfew enforced by a military deployment. It is the peak of unrest posing the most dire threat to Mubarak in his three decades of authoritarian rule.

US to review aid to Egypt, WH spokesman says

By The Associated Press

WASHINGTON — Increasing the pressure on Egypt’s leaders, the Obama administration threatened on Friday to reduce a $1.5 billion program of foreign aid depending on President Hosni Mubarak’s response to swelling street protests in Cairo and other cities.

“Violence is not the response” to the demands for greater freedoms, said White House spokesman Robert Gibbs.

Gibbs said President Barack Obama had been briefed extensively about the fast-moving events but had not tried to speak with Mubarak by phone.

The White House spokesman’s repeated calls for the government of Egypt to abandon violence was the latest response along those lines by the administration, struggling to keep abreast of a growing crisis inside a nation that has long been an ally in Middle East peace-making efforts, yet also has long denied basic rights to its own people.

Earlier, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said the government in Egypt should restore access to the Internet and social media sites.

“We are deeply concerned about the use of violence by Egyptian police and security forces against protesters, and we call on the Egyptian government to do everything in its power to restrain the security forces,” Clinton told reporters at the State Department.

Asked about U.S. aid to Egypt, currently running at about $1.5 billion a year, Gibbs said the review would include both military help and other assistance.

Clinton, like Gibbs, spoke with care while insisting Egyptians “refrain from violence and express themselves peacefully.”

She sidestepped a question on whether the United States believed that Mubarak’s government was finished, but she said the U.S. wanted to work as a partner with the country’s people and government to help realize reform in a peaceful manner. That underscored concerns that extremist elements might seek to take advantage of a political vacuum left by a sudden change in leadership.

Clinton said that reform “is absolutely critical to the well-being of Egypt” and urged Mubarak and his government to “engage immediately” with opposition groups and others to make broad economic, political and social changes. She said the Obama administration had raised repeatedly with Egypt the “imperative for reform and greater openness.”

White House and State Department spokesmen echoed Clinton’s remarks in comments posted to Twitter, one of the social media sites that the Egyptian protesters had used to organize their demonstrations and that the government has blocked access to.