Plan to install Suleiman as interim President
The Obama administration is discussing with Egyptian officials a proposal for President Hosni Mubarak to resign immediately, turning over power to a transitional government headed by Vice-President Omar Suleiman with the support of the Egyptian military, said administration officials and Arab diplomats on Thursday.
Though Mr. Mubarak has balked, so far, at leaving now, officials from both governments are continuing talks about a plan in which Mr. Suleiman, backed by Lt. Gen. Sami Enan, chief of the Egyptian armed forces, and Field Marshal Mohamed Tantawi, the Defence Minister, would immediately begin a process of constitutional reform.
The proposal also calls for the transitional government to invite members from a range of opposition groups, including the banned Muslim Brotherhood, to begin work to open up the country's electoral system in an effort to bring about free and fair elections in September, the officials said.
Senior administration officials said that the proposal was one of several options under discussion with high-level Egyptian officials around Mr. Mubarak in an effort to persuade the President to step down now.
They cautioned that the outcome depended on several factors, not least Egypt's own constitutional protocols and the mood of the protesters on the streets of Cairo and other cities.
Some officials said there was not yet any indication that either Mr. Suleiman or the military was willing to abandon Mr. Mubarak.
Even as the Obama administration is coalescing around a Mubarak-must-go-now posture in private conversations with Egyptian officials, Mr. Mubarak himself remains determined to stay until the election in September, U.S. and Egyptian officials said.
His backers pushed back Thursday against what they viewed as U.S. interference in Egypt's internal affairs.
“What they're asking cannot be done,” said one senior Egyptian official, citing clauses in the Egyptian Constitution that bar the Vice -President from assuming power.
Under the Constitution, the Speaker of Parliament would succeed the president.
“That's my technical answer,” the official added. “My political answer is they should mind their own business.”
Because of the fervour now unleashed in Egypt, one Obama administration official said, Mr. Mubarak's close aides expressed concern that they were not convinced that his resignation would satisfy the protesters.
In an interview with Christiane Amanpour of ABC News, Mr. Mubarak said he was “fed up” with being President but that he could not step down for fear of sowing chaos in the country.
A number of high-level U.S. officials have reached out to the Egyptians in recent days. While administration officials would not offer details of the alternatives that were being discussed, they made it clear that their preferred outcome would be for Mr. Suleiman to take power as a transitional figure.
On Thursday, the Senate passed a resolution calling on Mr. Mubarak to begin the transfer of power to an “inclusive, interim caretaker government”.
The White House released a statement saying that Mr. Obama called President Ali Abdullah Saleh of Yemen on Wednesday to welcome his recent “reform measures”. The Yemeni President promised not to run again in 2013. — New York Times News Service