WASHINGTON: Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton will travel to Egypt and Tunisia next week to press democratic reforms in the wake of rebellions that ousted the two countries’ longtime autocratic rulers. She will also meet members of Libya’s opposition who are fighting to topple Moammar Qaddafi.
Clinton will be the first cabinet-level Obama administration official to visit either Egypt or Tunisia since unrest exploded across the Middle East in January. Her trip to Cairo and Tunis comes as the US tries to maintain its influence in the region as well as reassure its Arab allies of continued support amid rapidly changing developments on the ground.
Clinton said she will also meet Libyan opposition figures in the US and when she travels to Egypt and Tunisia. The US has confirmed talks with groups organizing in Libya’s east, which has been largely wrested from Qaddafi’s control, but Clinton’s will be the highest-level discussions with figures fighting for an end to Qaddafi’s 42-year grip on power.
Clinton told a congressional panel on Thursday that she will see leaders of the Egyptian and Tunisian interim governments as well as members of civic groups to offer them US support for their democratic transitions and urge them to be as inclusive as possible while protecting human rights as they move ahead.
"We wish to be a partner in the important work that lies ahead as they embark on a transition to a genuine democracy," Clinton told a House budget committee. "We have an enormous stake in ensuring that Egypt and Tunisia provide models for the kind of democracy that we want to see."