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Obama urges Mubarak to leave office


U.S. President Barack Obama is urging Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak to immediately begin the process of handing over power, although he stopped short of calling for Mubarak to leave office right now.

His comments came as thousands of protesters crowded into Cairo's Tahrir Square to hear Mubarak address the nation. 

Earlier Thursday, White House spokesman Robert Gibbs aboard Air Force One could not confirm reports that Mubarak intended to leave office Thursday night, saying developments in Egypt remained fluid.

Obama said the future of Egypt must be determined by its people, Voice of America reported. He said the world was watching the events in Egypt and said this moment of turmoil should be turned into a moment of opportunity.

He spoke Friday in a joint news conference with Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper. Obama condemned violence between supporters of Mubarak and opposition protesters.

Speaking to reporters aboard Air Force One, Gibbs said President Barack Obama was monitoring events and met national security adviser Tom Donilon before leaving Thursday morning for an event in Michigan.

Said Gibbs: "I don't know what the outcome of what is happening will be."

Gibbs' comments came shortly after CIA chief Leon Panetta said there is a "strong likelihood" Mubarak will step down Thursday.

The Egyptian military announced Thursday that Mubarak would meet the demands of protesters in the strongest indication yet that Egypt's longtime leader has lost power.

This article originally appeared on GlobalPost.

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