Weak re­sponse?

The Washington Post Sunday - - FRONT PAGE - BY LEILA FADEL fadell@wash­post.com

Many pro­test­ers are up­set with the U.S. for what they say is a tepid re­ac­tion.

cairo — In a dusty al­ley­way in down­town Cairo, Ga­mal Mo­hammed Man­shawi held out a dirty plas­tic bag Satur­day af­ter­noon. In­side were smashed gas can­is­ters and the cas­ings of rub­ber bul­lets that he said Egyp­tian po­lice had fired at anti-govern­ment demon­stra­tors.

“You see,” the 50-year-old lawyer said, dis­play­ing the items. On the bot­tom of each were the words “Made in the USA.”

“ They are at­tack­ing us with Amer­i­can weapons,” he yelled as men gath­ered around him.

In the streets of Cairo, many pro­test­ers are now openly de­nounc­ing the United States for sup­port­ing Pres­i­dent Hosni Mubarak, say­ing the price has been their free­dom. They say the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion has of­fered only tepid crit­i­cism of a regime that has re­ceived bil­lions of dol­lars in U.S. aid.

The United States walks a fine line be­tween a weak­ened leader and the pro-democ­racy pro­test­ers who could over­throw him. But the prospect of Mubarak be­ing ousted by a move­ment that feels ig­nored by the United States raises ques­tions about fu­ture re­la­tions be­tween Washington and a strate­gic ally in a volatile re­gion of the world.

“ Tell Amer­ica that we get to choose our pres­i­dent,” Man­shawi said. “We choose him, not them.”

Many pro­test­ers said they were stirred by the death of Khaled Said, an ac­tivist who was beaten to death by se­cu­rity forces last year. He be­came a sym­bol of abuse at the hands of the se­cu­rity forces un­der Mubarak.

“We want a govern­ment elected by the peo­ple, not a govern­ment dic­tated to the peo­ple,” said Mo­hammed Ra­madan, 40, an ac­coun­tant who was demon­strat­ing along the Nile on Satur­day, as he has for the past five days.

The po­lice re­treated Satur­day, pushed back by waves of demon­stra­tors. The Egyp­tian army was de­ployed to the streets, a vic­tory in the eyes of the peo­ple here, and the calls for Mubarak’s ouster grew stronger.

U.S. of­fi­cials “speak about their own in­ter­est, not ours,” said Ahmed Abu Du­nia, who said he planned to demon­strate ev­ery day un­til Mubarak is gone. “ The Egyp­tians love Egypt.”

When pro­test­ers first took to the streets Tues­day, Sec­re­tary of State Hil­lary Rod­ham Clin­ton said that “our as­sess­ment is that the Egyp­tian govern­ment is sta­ble.” On Satur­day, sev­eral pro­test­ers noted that she did not ad­dress the govern­ment’s hu­man rights record or the attacks by po­lice to break up the gath­er­ings.

The ad­min­is­tra­tion’s re­marks have grown more force­ful. On Fri­day, Pres­i­dent Obama said he had asked Mubarak to live up to prom­ises to re­form.

But pro­test­ers who were de­mand­ing their rights said that was not enough.

“We didn’t ex­pect much from the United States,” said Ab­del Nasser Awad, 40, who said he was demon­strat­ing for his son’s fu­ture. “We are not peo­ple look­ing for war. We are look­ing for free­dom.”

He added that he hoped the in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity, in­clud­ing theUnited States, would force Mubarak out soon so that chaos would not en­gulf the nation. On Satur­day, loot­ers flooded sev­eral neigh­bor­hoods across the city.

In Tahrir Square, where the largest protests in Cairo have taken place, peo­ple said they thought Mubarak’s res­ig­na­tion might be near, not be­cause of the United States but in spite of it. Many here said that if Obama turned his back on Mubarak, he would have to step down.

“We be­lieve Amer­ica is against us,” said Emad Ab­del Halim, 31. “Un­til now, Obama didn’t talk to the Egyp­tian peo­ple. He didn’t sup­port the Egyp­tian peo­ple.”

“ Tell Obama to for­get about Mubarak,” said Is­lam Rashid, 26. “He is done.”

BEN CUR­TIS/AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Egyp­tian anti-govern­ment pro­test­ers take cover dur­ing scuf­fles with po­lice in Cairo. Many in the move­ment think the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion should con­demn the regime that re­ceives bil­lions of dol­lars in U.S. aid.

LEF­TERIS PI­TARAKIS/AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Pro­test­ers pray in front of an Egyp­tian army tank dur­ing a rally in Tahrir Square in Cairo. Hun­dreds of demon­stra­tors re­turned to the cap­i­tal’s main square Satur­day in a show of sol­i­dar­ity hours af­ter Pres­i­den­tMubarak fired his cabi­net.

PETER MACDIARMID/GETTY IM­AGES

ALESSIO ROMENZI/AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE VIA GETTY IM­AGES

A rel­a­tive, left, mourns the death ofMus­lim Broth­er­hood mem­ber Mustafa Samer al-Sawu, 22, al­legedly shot by po­lice fire dur­ing the un­rest in the Cairo neigh­bor­hood of Ab­dil. At far left, pro­test­ers carry an in­jured man dur­ing clashes with riot po­lice near Tahrir Square in Cairo. Riot po­lice and the Egyp­tian army have been sent to the cap­i­tal’s streets to quell protests, which, ac­cord­ing to health of­fi­cials, have claimed at least 45 lives and left more than 2,000 peo­ple in­jured.

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