US avoids predicting when Mubarak will leave
Posted: Monday, February 7, 2011 8:01 pm
WASHINGTON (AP) — Even as the White House tries to prepare for an Egypt without longtime U.S. ally Hosni Mubarak, it won’t be drawn into predicting when the Egyptian president will step down.
“Only he knows what he’s going to do,” President Obama said Sunday.
“The U.S. can’t forcefully dictate, but what we can do is say the time is now for you to start making a change in your country. Mubarak has already decided he’s not going to run again.”
Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said forcing Mubarak to leave office quickly could complicate the already enormous challenges Egypt faces in transforming itself from autocracy to democracy.
In fact, Clinton said Mubarak’s departure could affect “significant actions” he has himself taken to get the reform process started. She said he should be recognized for those steps even if they fall short of what angry protesters in the streets of Cairo are demanding and will not alone produce free and fair elections.
Returning to Washington from an international security conference in Munich, Clinton suggested that the Obama administration was now more focused on encouraging “orderly transition” in Egypt than in seeing Mubarak go quickly. And, she implied that Mubarak’s continued, although less powerful, presence at the top of the Egyptian government may actually help complete the process.
She noted that if he resigned, Egypt’s constitution would require an election within 60 days, a prospect even some Mubarak opponents have said would not allow enough time to organize a credible vote. In doing so, Clinton became the first senior U.S. official to publicly recognize the pitfalls of demanding Mubarak’s immediate ouster on constitutional grounds.
Frank Wisner, the retired U.S. diplomat whom Obama sent to Cairo last week to nudge Mubarak out of the picture, drew attention to the constitutional dilemma on Saturday in remarks to the Munich Security Conference. He also raised a furor by saying that Mubarak was “utterly critical” to the reform process.
Published in The Messenger 2.7.11