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Bay Area Scholars Hail Mubarak Decision To Step Down

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Hosni Mubarak, Egypt

Former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak. (AP)

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BERKELEY (CBS 5 / AP / BCN) — The resignation of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak on Friday was considered a favorable action by several Bay Area professors and residents who had been affected by recent events in the Middle East.

“It’s the best option we could have hoped for,” said Robert Sproul, the assistant dean of development at University of California at Berkeley’s Boalt Hall School of Law.

Mubarak fled Cairo early Friday, a day after transferring some power to Vice President Omar Suleiman in a failed effort to quell weeks of protests. The embattled ruler left the capital for the Red Sea resort city of Sharm el-Sheikh, where he has a private residence.

>> Complete Coverage Of Egypt’s Revolution From CBS News

When Suleiman announced Mubarak’s resignation later Friday, it brought a wave of celebration in Egypt, with hundreds of thousands of protesters in Cairo’s Tahrir Square chanting: “The people have brought down the regime.”

“In these grave circumstances that the country is passing through, President Hosni Mubarak has decided to leave his position as president of the republic,” a grim-looking Suleiman said, indicating that authority to run the country had been turned over to the military.

Saba Mahmood, a professor of anthropology at UC Berkeley, said the revolution that brought about the resignation of Mubarak was the biggest event in the Middle East in the past 60 years.

“This uprising is going to be felt in every single country in the region,” Mahmood said. “There is a huge concern whether there will be a transition to a true democratic process.”

Hisham Ahmed, a politics professor at Saint Mary’s College in Moraga, said the movement in Egypt and in surrounding Arab countries was irreversible and signified the beginning of a much broader revolutionary change.

Ahmed noted that President Barack Obama’s administration must be vocal in its support for the Egyptian people.

“It’s a delicate situation for the Obama administration, but these are historic times. These are serious times,” Ahmed said. “I hope the administration won’t be making the mistake of sending a message to the Egyptians that their friendship with a dictator is more important than the welfare of the people.”

President Obama on Friday said he welcomed the peaceful transition of power in Egypt, declaring, “The people of Egypt have spoken. Their voices have been heard and Egypt will never be the same.”

In brief remarks at the White House, the president noted that it was “not the end of Egypt’s transition, it’s a beginning.” He said that many important questions remained to be resolved and difficult times lied ahead.

“I’m confident the people of Egypt can find the answers,” Obama said, but he added a note of warning. The military, he said, would have to “ensure a transition that is credible in the eyes of the Egyptian people.”

(© 2011 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. Bay City News and the Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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