US officials say the Obama administration is in talks with top Egyptian officials about exit strategies for Egypt's embattled President Hosni Mubarak, including the possibility of his immediate resignation.
AP - Talks are under way between the Obama administration and top Egyptian officials on the possible immediate resignation of President Hosni Mubarak and the formation of a military-backed caretaker government that could prepare the country for free and fair elections later this year, U.S. officials say.
With protests in Cairo and other Egyptian cities expected to grow in size and intensity Friday, the administration fears they may erupt into more widespread violence unless the government takes tangible steps to address the protesters’ main demand that Mubarak leave office quickly.
Creation of an interim government is just one of several possibilities under discussion, the officials said late Thursday.
The officials spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the sensitive diplomatic talks, which are continuing.
In pictures: Major players in Egypt’s crisis
The country’s new vice-president previously served as general intelligence director for almost two decades. Emerging from the political shadows only recently, Suleiman is now charged with talking to the opposition. (Photo credit: Screen grab from Al Oula TV).
Pro-American Lieutenant General Sami Anan (right) is chief of staff of the armed forces – some 350,000 soldiers and 470,000 reserves. He reportedly has enormous influence over the outcome of the crisis – depending on who he orders the army to side with. (Credit: AFP).
As Supreme Guide of the Muslim Brotherhood, Badie has been at the head of Egypt’s most organised opposition movement for one year. He, along with his party, are demanding that Mubarak form a government of national unity. (Credit: FRANCE 24).
Opposition leader and 2005 Nobel Peace Prize winner, ElBaradei returned to Egypt on January 28 to join the protests. Outside of Egypt he is a strong favourite to be the next president, but inside the country he is little-known. (Credit: FRANCE 24).
Ghad Party leader and founder, Nour came second (albeit far behind Mubarak), in the presidential election of 2005. A political dissident and prominent human rights lawyer, he has endured several stints behind bars. (Credit: FRANCE 24).
Former foreign affairs minister, Moussa enjoys widespread popularity in Egypt for his hearty criticism of neighbouring Israel. Currently Secretary General of the Arab League, he has not ruled out running for the presidency. (Credit: FRANCE 24).
The youngest son of Hosni Mubarak serves as the deputy secretary-general of the president’s ruling National Democratic Party. He’s considered by many as the most likely successor to his father, but the opposition is determined to stop that from happening.
The officials stressed that the United States isn’t seeking to impose a solution on Egypt but said the administration had made a judgment that Mubarak has to go soon if there is to be a peaceful resolution to the crisis.
“The president has said that now is the time to begin a peaceful, orderly and meaningful transition, with credible, inclusive negotiations,” a White House spokesman, Tommy Vietor, said Thursday night. “We have discussed with the Egyptians a variety of different ways to move that process forward, but all of those decisions must be made by the Egyptian people.”
White House and State Department officials would not discuss details of the discussions U.S. officials are having with the Egyptians. Vice President Joe Biden spoke with Egyptian Vice President Omar Suleiman on Thursday, a day after a similar conversation between Suleiman and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton.
Officials said neither Biden nor Clinton made a specific call for Mubarak to resign immediately but pressed for measures that would ease tensions on the streets and set the stage for democratic elections.
An administration official said there is no single plan being discussed with the Egyptians. Rather, the administration is pursuing different ideas with Egyptian figures on how to proceed quickly with a process that includes a broad range of voices and leads to free and fair elections - in essence, different ways to accomplish those goals.
Among those options is a proposal for Mubarak to resign immediately - which the embattled president has refused to do - and for Mubarak to cede power to a transitional government run by Suleiman.
But the official rejected the notion that the White House was trying to impose that idea and said it was not at all clear it would happen. The official spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss internal deliberations.
The discussions come amid escalating violence between pro- and anti-Mubarak forces.
The United States on Thursday severely criticized what it called systematic attacks on journalists in Egypt and said they appeared to be an attempt to shut out reporting of even bigger anti-government demonstrations to come.
Clinton condemned “in the strongest terms” the pro-government mobs that beat, threatened and intimidated reporters in Cairo.
Attacks as well on peaceful demonstrators, human rights activists, foreigners and diplomats were “unacceptable under any circumstances,” she said.
Clinton pointed the finger at Mubarak’s government without explicitly blaming the 82-year-old president for the violence. Egypt’s government must hold accountable those responsible for the attacks and “must demonstrate its willingness to ensure journalists’ ability to report on these events to the people of Egypt and to the world,” she said.
Foreign photographers reported attacks by Mubarak supporters near Cairo’s Tahrir Square, the scene of vicious battles between Mubarak supporters and protesters demanding he step down after nearly 30 years in power.
The Egyptian government has accused media outlets of being sympathetic to protesters who want Mubarak to quit now rather than complete his term as he has pledged.
The administration’s call for an immediate transition from three decades of authoritarian rule in Egypt has coincided with American hopes that reforms in Jordan and Yemen could stave off similar revolt.
All three countries have experienced instability since protesters in Tunisia chased their leader from power last month.
Date created : 2011-02-04