Gates to urge Egypt's peaceful move to democracy

AP News
Posted: Mar 23, 2011 9:56 AM
Gates to urge Egypt's peaceful move to democracy

Defense Secretary Robert Gates is taking stock of Egypt's early steps toward democracy, and urging military leaders to remain committed to a calm transition as well as the Middle East peace process.

Gates arrived in Cairo Wednesday for his first trip to Egypt after weeks of phone conversations with military leader Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi during the recent protests and the ouster of President Hosni Mubarek. Gates is expected to urge the continuing peaceful move to democracy, as well as update Tantawi on the military action in the neighboring country of Libya.

Pentagon press secretary Geoff Morrell said Gates appreciated the performance of the military during the rebellion and is encouraged that Egypt is heading in the right direction as it transforms into a democratic, civilian-led government.

U.S. defense leaders believe that the Pentagon's long, close training and working relationship with the Egyptian military helped troops maintain a largely non-violent reaction to the protests that toppled Mubarak's autocratic rule in February.

Tantawi is chief of Egypt's powerful Armed Forces Supreme Council, which took over from Mubarak and is directing the transition through presidential and parliamentary elections expected to take place in four to six months.

Gates is also expected to meet with interim Prime Minister Essam Sharaf. The U.S. military helped evacuate thousands of Egyptians who were in Libya and managed to get into Tunisia to escape the violence.

Pentagon officials believe that Tantawi and his military are committed to a continuing peace with Israel, which is considered a key cornerstone to stability in the region.