EGYPT: Clinton tours Cairo’s Tahrir Square 16Mar11 March 19, 2011

Aljazeera -  16 March 2011

Hillary Clinton, the US secretary of state, has visited Cairo’s Tahrir [Liberation] Square on the final day of her visit to the country.

Her visit on Wednesday was the first by a high-ranking US official to the focal point of Egypt’s revolution that ended Hosni Mubarak’s three-decades-old rule last month.

During her two-day visit to Egypt, Clinton met members of Egypt’s transitional government, encouraging continual democratic reforms and promising US help.

While meeting Essam Sharaf, the country’s new prime minister, she said: “I am so looking forward to help in any way that we can.

“There is so much to be done and the United States is ready to help in every way possible to translate what happened in Tahrir Square to a new reality for Egypt.”

Sherine Tadros, Al Jazeera’s correspondent in Cairo reported Clinton received a very warm reception from crowds in Tahrir Square.

She said: “Egyptians were shaking her hand, they were shouting… “Thank you for coming”, she in turn said to them that she was thrilled to be there, excited at being right there at the epicenter where the revolution began.”

Poll concerns

Her trip underscores the Obama administration’s concern that gains made since Mubarak was toppled may be lost.

Civic groups have raised fears that a promised referendum on constitutional amendments and June parliamentary elections followed by a presidential vote are too rushed to permit a true representative democracy to emerge.

Some believe the sequencing won’t give secular opposition groups enough time to organise into credible political parties.

The most organised opposition movement in the county is the Muslim Brotherhood, an Islamist party long banned by Mubarak.

The Brotherhood took a low-key role in the initial protests against Mubarak but is now seen as moving to take advantage of the space opened by the protesters in Tahrir Square.

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