US hopes Egypt emergency law lifted before June

September 29, 2011 | 08:45
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US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Wednesday she hoped Egypt would lift its emergency law before June 2012, the date set by the caretaker military rulers in Cairo.
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton shakes hands with Egypt's Foreign Minister Mohammed Kamel Amr during a joint press conference following meetings at the US State Department in Washington.

But Clinton, speaking at a press conference with Egyptian Foreign Minister Mohammed Kamel Amr, said Washington supports the steps Egypt has taken toward democratic elections following president Hosni Mubarak's overthrow in February.

The chief US diplomat said the United States continues to encourage the military rulers to lift the state of emergency, which Mubarak had kept in place throughout his three-decade rule.

"We hope to see the law lifted sooner than that (2012) because we think that is an important step to the way to the rule of law," she said after the two top diplomats met for the first time.

Clinton also said it is a key step to "the kind of system of checks and balances that are important in protecting the rights of the Egyptian people, to create the context for free and democratic elections.

"We want to see this as soon as possible... We will continue to raise it," Clinton said.

Egypt's military said a week ago on Wednesday that the country's emergency law is designed to be in place until June 2012 as decreed by law, but left the door open to having it lifted or amended.

The controversial law -- which has been continuously in place since Islamists assassinated president Anwar Sadat in 1981 -- had been regularly extended under Mubarak's regime.

The ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) recently widened the scope of the law -- restricted in 2010 to narcotics and terrorism -- to include labor strikes, traffic disruption and the spread of false information.

The military had promised that parliamentary elections scheduled by the end of the year would not be conducted under a state of emergency.

Clinton praised Egypt's march toward elections after details published Wednesday showed that its first parliamentary elections since Mubarak's fall will be held in 12 stages, including run-offs, over a period of four months.

"We are very supportive of the steps that have been taken in Egypt to establish a timetable for elections, to create the conditions that permit the elections to proceed, the formation of political parties," she said.

Clinton welcomed "a lot of free and diverse opinion being expressed."

She said the upcoming elections "should produce an outcome that will set the stage for a new constitution, for the presidential elections, and we think that's an appropriate timetable."

Recognizing that the revolution hurt the Egyptian economy, Clinton said the administration is urging Congress "to work with us to move the aid that President (Barack) Obama announced as quickly as possible."

In a May 19 speech, Obama pledged to forgive one billion dollars in Egyptian debt -- with the money invested in jobs instead -- and provide one billion dollars in aid to Egypt.

Clinton also said the Obama administration opposes any attempts by Congress to impose conditions on aid to Egypt.

Amr said Clinton "explicitly" gave Washington's commitment to the longstanding partnership with Egypt, which serves as the anchor for US policy in the region.


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