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Egypt's military promises to be stabilizing influence

The Egyptian military has performed exceptionally well in its country’s recent crisis, the top U.S. military officer said today in a podcast for service members worldwide.

Navy Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, spoke about the situation in Egypt, where an enormous wave of demonstrations has the government in turmoil. The demonstrators are calling for President Hosni Mubarak to step down.

Mullen said he spoke with his Egyptian counterpart, Army Lt. Gen. Sami Enan, by phone and received an update on the situation.

“He assures me that they’re very focused on this, and they will continue to be a stabilizing influence within their country,” Mullen said. “So again, [it’s a] very tough situation. There’s great uncertainty right now, and we certainly are looking for a future which stabilizes, we hope, as fast as possible.”

The situation is very volatile, and no one knows how it will turn out, the chairman said.

“So far, the Egyptian military have handled themselves exceptionally well,” he said. “You can see that just from the pictures that have been displayed, in terms of how they have been accepted by their people.”

White House spokesman Robert Gibbs reiterated the administration’s position that there must be an orderly transition in Egypt.

“A whole range of issues … have to be addressed. … There has to be meaningful negotiations with a broad cross-section of the Egyptian people, including opposition groups, that go to answering the very core of the freedoms that people desire,” Gibbs told reporters at today’s White House press briefing.

President Barack Obama told Mubarak in a Jan. 28 phone conversation that the demonstrations are “an opportunity that should be seized … to bring about significant democratic change,” Gibbs said.

“We have said all along that there are … legitimate concerns and grievances had by the Egyptian people for a long time – the need for freedom to associate, freedom to communicate over the Internet, freedom to assemble, the freedom of speech – and that those must be addressed in a substantive way by the Egyptian government,” Gibbs said.

Mullen stressed the importance of Egypt’s military as a stabilizing force. The United States military has had a close and continuing relationship with Egyptian officers and noncommissioned officers since the Camp David Accords in 1978, he noted.

“We’ve had a very strong relationship with the Egyptian military for decades,” Mullen said. “And as I look to the future, I certainly look to that to continue.

“I look forward to continuing to work with the Egyptian military,” the admiral continued. “We look to a future that certainly, we hope, is stable, within Egypt as well as, obviously, in the region.”

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