Saturday, February 5, 2011

US officials: Talks on Mubarak leaving immediately



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.

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 democrtic elections.

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