REPORTING FROM WASHINGTON -- Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton on Wednesday urged Egypt to repeal its emergency law, which was recently expanded despite protests from activists.
After a meeting with Egyptian Foreign Minister Mohamed Kamel Amr, Clinton said the U.S. wants the country's interim military rulers to scrap the measure before next year “because we think that is an important step on the way to the rule of law.”
The measure, which has been in place for decades, gave ousted President Hosni Mubarak's security forces wide powers to arrest and detain citizens without charge. Protesters behind the uprising that drove Mubarak from power complain that the law has also been used by the Supreme Council of Armed Forces to stifle dissent and curtail human rights.
The military had planned to lift the measure before parliamentary elections scheduled to begin Nov. 28. But it said it had no choice but to expand the measure after a mob attacked the Israeli Embassy this month.
The military's move has alarmed activists who in recent days have “made it a rallying point,” said Stephen McInerney, executive director of the private Washington-based Project on Middle East Democracy.
Friction has been growing between U.S. officials and Egypt's military leadership, including over its efforts to halt U.S. spending to help new political groups in the country. But the Obama administration considers its relationship with the military to be valuable at a chaotic moment in post-revolutionary Egypt and, in comments to reporters, Clinton repeatedly praised the group.
“The army has played a very stabilizing, important role during this period,” she said.
-- Paul Richter
Photo: Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton holds a news conference with Egyptian Foreign Minister Mohamed Kamel Amr at the State Department in Washington. Credit: Molly Riley / Reuters