[QODLink]
Europe
Clinton warns of 'perfect storm'
US secretary of state says rulers in Middle East must enforce political and social reforms or face backlash.
Last Modified: 05 Feb 2011 22:19 GMT
German chancellor Angela Merkel (left) warned that rapid action in Egypt could prove counterproductive [EPA]

Hillary Clinton, the US secretary of state, has warned of a "perfect storm" enveloping the Middle East if leaders do not implement political and social reforms to meet the demands of their people.

Clinton was speaking on Saturday at a high-level security conference in Munich, where EU leaders have appeared divided in their response to events in Egypt.

The secretary of state urged European nations to join the US in pressing for broad political and economic reform in the Middle East.

She said half measures were "untenable" as they would only breed further discontent.

Some European leaders such as David Cameron, the British prime minister, have also called for a rapid transition in Egypt.

However, Angela Merkel, the German chancellor and Silvio Berlusconi, the Italian prime minister, fear early elections in Egypt would not be helpful and say the immediate ousting of Hosni Mubarak, the president, could lead to a power vacuum.

'Strategic necessity'

"The region is being battered by a perfect storm of powerful trends," Clinton said.

"This is what has driven demonstrators into the streets of Tunis, Cairo, and cities throughout the region."

Clinton said that Washington was backing Egypt's drive to craft orderly reforms to allow democratic elections.

"It is important to support the transition process announced by the Egyptian government actually headed by now-vice president Omar Suleiman," she said.

"The principles are very clear, the operational details are very challenging."

The secretary of state urged leaders across the Middle East to embrace democratic reforms in response to the growing unrest in the region, despite the risk of short-term instability in countries like Egypt, Tunisia and Yemen.

She said change is a "strategic necessity" that will make Arab nations stronger and their people more prosperous and less susceptible to extremist ideologies.

Addressing events in Egypt, Merkel said: "Early elections at the beginning of the democratisation process is probably the wrong approach."

However, Cameron said a delay would produce an unstable country that the West would not welcome.

"There is no stability in Egypt. We need change, reform and transition to get stability," he said at the conference.

Obama: Mubarak must listen

On Friday, Barack Obama, the US president, said Mubarak should "listen" to protesters calling for him to resign, but he stopped short of explicitly urging the Egyptian president to leave office immediately.

"He needs to listen to what is voiced by the people and make a judgement about a pathway forward that is orderly, that is meaningful and serious," Obama said in carefully worded comments on Egypt's political future.

Obama told reporters that in two conversations with Mubarak since mass protests against the Egyptian leader's 30-year rule began 11 days ago he stressed the need for an orderly transition to democracy in the country, long a cornerstone of US Middle East strategy.

"Having made that psychological break, that decision that he will not be running again, I think the most important thing for him to ask himself ... is how do we make that transition effective and lasting and legitimate,'' Obama said.

"The key question he should be asking himself is: 'how do I leave a legacy behind in which Egypt is able to get through this transformative period?' And my hope is ... that he will end up making the right decision."

Source:
Al Jazeera and agencies
Topics in this article
People
Country
City
Organisation
Featured on Al Jazeera
The author argues that in the new economy, it's people, not skills or majors, that have lost value.
Colleagues of detained Al Jazeera journalists press demands for their release, 100 days after their arrest in Egypt.
Mehdi Hasan discusses online freedoms and the potential of the web with Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales.
A tight race seems likely as 814 million voters elect leaders in world's largest democracy next week.
Featured
Venezuela's president lacks the charisma and cult of personality maintained by the late Hugo Chavez.
Despite the Geneva deal, anti-government protesters in Ukraine's eastern regions don't intend to leave any time soon.
Since independence, Zimbabwe has faced food shortages, hyperinflation - and several political crises.
After a sit-in protest at Poland's parliament, lawmakers are set to raise government aid to carers of disabled youth.
A vocal minority in Ukraine's east wants to join Russia, and Kiev has so far been unable to put down the separatists.
join our mailing list