A senior American official says that the special envoy dispatched to Egypt by President Barak Obama told Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak that the U.S. saw his presidency at an end and urged him to prepare for an orderly transition to real democracy with elections.
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The official said Tuesday that the message was delivered to Mubarak on Monday by Frank Wisner, a respected former U.S. ambassador to Egypt, whom Obama dispatched to Cairo amid mounting anti-government protests and demands for the Egyptian leader to step down. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because of the delicacy of the ongoing diplomacy.
Wisner and Mubarak are friends and the official said the retired ambassador made clear that it was the U.S view that his tenure as president is coming to close.
As protests across Egypt drew hundreds of thousands of people demanding that Mubarak immediately leave office, Obama kept up pressure on the Egyptian president.
Obama has struggled to balance pressure to back the political change sought by protesters against concerns that openly urging Mubarak to quit could unsettle other authoritarian U.S. allies in the region, from Jordan to Saudi Arabia. Mubarak, 82, has been a close U.S. partner for decades.
Also Tuesday, the U.S. ambassador to Egypt, Margaret Scobey, spoke to Nobel Peace laureate Mohamed ElBaradei, a key opposition figure who has seen rising support from a broad swath of Egyptian groups.
"Our embassy in Cairo maintains an active outreach to a wide range of political and civil society representatives in Cairo, and the mission has been especially busy in the last several days to help convey our strong support for an orderly transition," the U.S. State Department said in a statement.
"One such contact was between the ambassador and Mohamed ElBaradei today," it added in the statement sent to Reuters in Cairo, referring to U.S. Ambassador Margaret Scobey.
U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates spoke with Mohamed Hussein Tantawi, Egypt's defense minister. The Pentagon declined to give details about the call.
ElBaradei, the former head of the U.N. nuclear watchdog, returned to Egypt last week and has since seen growing support from opposition groups, including the banned Islamist group the Muslim Brotherhood, Christians, intellectuals and others.
Some influential U.S. lawmakers on Tuesday called for Mubarak to go, including John Kerry, the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and an Obama ally.
In an opinion piece in The New York Times, Kerry urged Mubarak to "step aside gracefully to make way for a new power structure."