US & Canada

Egypt protests: Hillary Clinton urges 'orderly transition'

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has called for an "orderly transition" to democracy in Egypt, but warned there is a long way to go in the process.

"Democracy, human rights and economic reform are in the best interests of the Egyptian people," she told ABC News.

"Any government that does not try to move in that direction cannot meet the legitimate interest of the people."

Her call came as protesters took over the centre of Egypt's capital on a sixth day of protests.

Clashes between protesters and the security forces - mostly riot police - are reported to have left at least 100 people dead across Egypt since rallies began on Tuesday. Thousands have been injured as violence has flared in cities including Cairo, Suez and Alexandria.

'Clear message'

The BBC's North America editor Mark Mardell says Mrs Clinton's comments are a sign that the Obama administration is edging towards accepting, if not openly endorsing, an end to Mubarak's rule.

Mrs Clinton took the rare step of appearing in back-to-back interviews on five US Sunday morning talk shows to address the situation in Egypt.

She was repeatedly asked to back, or oppose President Mubarak, but side-stepped every opportunity to do either, our correspondent says.

"We want to see an orderly transition so that no-one fills a void, that there not be a void, that there be a well thought-out plan that will bring about a democratic participatory government," Mrs Clinton told the "Fox News Sunday" programme.

"We are trying to convey a message that is very clear," Mrs Clinton told ABC News. "That we want to ensure that there is no violence and no provocation that results in violence... We want to see these reforms and a process of national dialogue begun so that the people of Egypt can see their legitimate concerns addressed."

Asked if she thought Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak had taken the necessary steps so far to hold on, Mrs Clinton said: "It's not a question of who retains power... It's how are we going to respond to the legitimate needs and grievances expressed by the Egyptian people and chart a new path.

"Clearly, the path that has been followed has not been one that has created that democratic future, that economic opportunity that people in the peaceful protests are seeking."

'Increasing chaos'

The US government, which previously had advised US citizens against non-essential travel to Egypt, is now advising Americans in Egypt to consider leaving the country as soon as possible.

Mrs Clinton said there was "no discussion as of this time about cutting off any aid" to Egypt, adding "we always are looking at and reviewing our aid".

The US Secretary of State warned there was "no easy answer" to Egypt's problems and said a solution was "unlikely to be... [found] overnight without very grave consequences for everyone involved".

"Increasing chaos or violence in the streets" was "not the way to go" she said.

The US wanted to "see this be responded to in a clear unambiguous way by the government. She said there were "many steps" that could be taken to "really respond to the political desires of the people".

There was an urgent need for a "process that bring people to the table," Mrs Clinton said, advocating an effort that is going to result in changes that have responded to the "legitimate concerns" of the Egyptian people.

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