Senate Backs Measure Seeking Change In Egypt

WASHINGTON (AP) - The Senate approved a resolution Thursday urging Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak to hand over power to a caretaker government and begin a peaceful transition to a democratic society.

Responding to the days of rage in Egypt, Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman John Kerry, D-Mass., and Sen. John McCain of Arizona, the top Republican on the Armed Services Committee, joined forces in writing the bipartisan resolution. The Senate passed the measure by voice vote Thursday night.

The non-binding resolution calls on Mubarak "to immediately begin an orderly and peaceful transition to a democratic political system, including the transfer of power to an inclusive interim caretaker government, in coordination with leaders from Egypt's opposition, civil society and military."

The resolution also seeks concrete steps toward reform, including the lifting of the state of emergency in Egypt, allowing political parties to organize and permitting international monitors for elections. Mubarak, 82, who has served for three decades, has said he would not seek re-election in September, but that has done little to appease protesters demanding his ouster.

The resolution expresses deep concern about organizations such as the Muslim Brotherhood and urges all groups, including the interim government, to reiterate their commitment to non-violence and the rule of law.

"Stop the bloodletting," McCain said on the Senate floor. "Let's start a peaceful transition to a free and open society and a government that can regain and hold the trust of the people of Egypt."

Kerry said the Senate was trying to send a message about "our deep concern over the violence and our hopes and prayers that in the next hours and next days responsible leadership will step up and do what is right."

In a statement, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said, "I condemn the recent violence and will stand with the Egyptian people as they demand the opportunities and rights that all citizens deserve."