White House was discussing a plan in which Egyptian President Hosni
Mubarak would resign immediately with Egyptian officials, The New York Times reported Thursday evening.
plan would place newly-appointed Egyptian Vice President Omar Suleiman
in charge of a transitional government with the support of the country's
military establishment, according to the report.
Mubarak: I'd resign, but Egypt would descend into chaos
Senior Obama administration officials told the Times that
the plan was being discussed with "high-level Egyptian officials around
Mr. Mubarak," but not with the president himself. Washington has made
several recent statements calling on the Egyptian president to step down
immediately, although tempering their language.
The reported proposal calls for a widely inclusive transitional
government, with representation coming from "a broad range of opposition
groups, including the banned Muslim Brotherhood."
Another White House official, however, disputed the New York Times' suggestion that the two countries were close to reaching a deal, telling CNN that "It's simply wrong to report that there's a single US plan that's being negotiated with the Egyptians."
US National Security Countil spokesman Tommy Vietor told the cable news network that in addition to the proposal outlined in the Times, Washington was discussing "a variety of different ways" for bringing an Egyptian transition to democracy. He emphasized, however, that "all of those decisions must be made by the Egyptian people."
Officials quoted in the report, in an attempt to lower expectations,
pointed out that there was have not been any signs that either Suleiman
or Egypt's army were willing to participate in such a plan as long as
Mubarak opposed it.
Leslie H. Gelb, president emeritus of the Council on Foreign Relations, told the Times
that Mubarak fears that even if he steps down that he will be subject
to further demands, pointing out that "he's not dealing with a legal
entity, but a mob."
US officials have reportedly been putting
forth several scenarios to Egyptians in the past days, but clarified
that their preferred outcome was a plan that saw Omar Suleiman heading a
Also on Thursday, US Vice President Joe
Biden spoke with Suleiman, calling for restraint and that "credible,
inclusive negotiations begin immediately in order for Egypt to
transition to a democratic government that addresses the aspirations of
the Egyptian people."
According to the report, the phone call was
placed after Mubarak refused to meet with US President Barack Obama's
private envoy to Egypt for the second time. The Egyptian president was
apparently irked by the strong language used by the US president in his
speech on Tuesday.
Earlier Thursday, Mubarak struck
a defiant tone, telling ABC News’s Christiane Amanpour that he would “never
run away” and would “die on the soil of Egypt.”
The embattled president
said in the interview that he was ready to leave office, but could not,
for fear his country would sink deeper into chaos.