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Will US support a military-backed Mubarak exit?

The Obama administration may be cautiously pleased by reports that Egypt's President Mubarak will move up his departure from power amid intensified pressure from the nation's military.

By Staff writer / February 10, 2011

Opposition supporters flash the victory sign after a senior army general addressed the crowd inside Tahrir Square in Cairo on Feb. 10.

Yannis Behrakis/Reuters



The Obama administration cannot help but be cautiously pleased with news out of Cairo that President Hosni Mubarak will move up his departure from power, perhaps announcing his plans as early as Thursday night.

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Mr. Mubarak’s decision appears to be a result of intensified pressure from the Egyptian military, the institution with which the US has the closest ties. The military’s supreme council met Thursday without Mubarak and announced on state television that it reconfirmed its “support of the legitimate demands of the people.”

Reports out of Cairo Thursday evening said Mubarak would relinquish power to the military, which is insisting that the transition is not a coup d'état.

Mubarak’s departure sooner than September, his original timetable, would seem to meet President Obama’s “hope” that Mubarak would “do the right thing” – as Mr. Obama called for last Friday – by responding to the central demand of Egyptian protesters that he step down.

Still, it remained unclear, before Mubarak actually makes a statement, exactly when he will relinquish power. Egyptian officials were quoted in Egyptian media saying that Mubarak’s decision would meet the protesters' demands. Their one common demand has been that Mubarak resign immediately.

But some Egyptian officials hinted that Mubarak might not relinquish power immediately, saying that certain changes would first have to be made to the constitution to accommodate a transfer of power from the president to Vice President Omar Suleiman.

Whether a transfer of power to Mr. Suleiman would satisfy the protesters is also an open question. Some have said that because Suleiman was appointed to his newly created post, not elected, his ascension would only continue the existing regime.

A transfer of power to Suleiman for some interim period, perhaps until elections can be organized, may well be reassuring to the US. The Obama administration has insisted in recent days that Egypt undertake an “orderly transition,” as Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton emphasized over the weekend. Suleiman has had close contacts with the US military and intelligence agencies for decades.


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