President Barack Obama said on Thursday that political reforms were "absolutely critical" to Egypt's long-term well-being, boosting pressure on President Hosni Mubarak to implement changes while acknowledging he was a critical U.S. ally.
In his first comments on the unrest in Egypt, Obama said Mubarak had been "very helpful on a range of tough issues in the Middle East."
Obama's comments came as the White House struggled to deal with political upheaval from Tunisia to Egypt and Lebanon that appeared to have caught the administration flat-footed and struggling for an effective response to events that threatened its influence in the Middle East.
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