John Kerry: Mubarak Should Step Aside in Egypt

Senator John Kerry says Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak must give up power because “the stability of his country hinges on his willingness to step aside gracefully.”

In an op-ed column in The New York Times, the Massachusetts Democrat writes: “It is not enough for President Mubarak to pledge ‘fair’ elections, as he did on Saturday. The most important step that he can take is to address his nation and declare that neither he nor the son he has been positioning as his successor will run in the presidential election this year. Egyptians have moved beyond his regime, and the best way to avoid unrest turning into upheaval is for President Mubarak to take himself and his family out of the equation.”

Kerry, who is chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said relinquishing power after three decades will give Mubarak “the chance to end the violence and lawlessness, to begin improving the dire economic and social conditions in his country and to change his place in history.”

Kerry has focused his attention on foreign affairs since his unsuccessful campaign as the 2004 Democratic presidential nominee. He was among those President Barack Obama considered for secretary of state in 2008, and after the job was given to Hillary Rodham Clinton, Kerry immersed himself in his Foreign Relations Committee work. Most recently, he has used his senatorial stature and administration stamp on missions to Pakistan, the Sudan and the Middle East.

His connection to the administration, and speculation he may replace Clinton in a potential second Obama term, has given heft to his travels — and his writings.

In his column, Kerry says the United States is not completely blameless for the anti-Mubarak outpouring that has been evident the past week in mass public demonstrations across Egypt. Some critics have blamed the United States for propping up a near-dictator in the form of Mubarak.

“It is true that our public rhetoric did not always match our private concerns,” Kerry wrote. “But there also was a pragmatic understanding that our relationship benefited American foreign policy and promoted peace in the region. And make no mistake, a productive relationship with Egypt remains crucial for both us and the Middle East.”

He called on the Obama administration to provide “real assistance” to the Egyptian people.

“For too long,” he wrote, “Egypt’s military has dominated our alliance. The proof was seen over the weekend: tear gas canisters marked ‘Made in America’ fired at protesters, United States-supplied F-16 jet fighters streaking over central Cairo.”