U.S.: Mubarak Must Stay in Power to Steer Reform in Egypt

Egyptian president said earlier he believed Egypt would descend into chaos if he were to give in to demands of the protesters and quit immediately.

Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak must stay in power for the time being to steer changes needed for political transition, U.S. President Barack Obama's special envoy for Egypt said on Saturday.

"We need to get a national consensus around the pre-conditions for the next step forward. The president must stay in office to steer those changes," Frank Wisner told the Munich Security Conference.

State Department spokesman Philip Crowley said Wisner "didn't coordinate" his comments with the administration, and he was not in officially representing the U.S. following his trip to Cairo

Mubarak, who has pledged to step down in September when a presidential election is scheduled, said on Thursday he believed Egypt would descend into chaos if he were to give in to almost two weeks of demands by an unprecedented popular revolt that he quit immediately.

The embattled president has fashioned himself as the crucial rampart against Islamist militancy in Egypt and the indispensable player in maintaining a peace treaty Egypt signed with Israel in 1979. But protesters are maintaining their position that they will no stop demonstrating until Mubarak leaves the government.
At the same security conference on Saturday, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said that Egypt's political transition should take place "as orderly but as expeditiously as possible" to give enough time for democratic elections to be prepared.

"President Mubarak has announced he will not stand for reelection nor will his son ... He has given a clear message to his government to lead and support this process of transition," Clinton told a Munich security conference.

"That is what the government has said it is trying to do, that is what we are supporting, and hope to see it move as orderly but as expeditiously as possible under the circumstances," Clinton said.

U.S. Vice-President Joe Biden spoke Saturday with his Egyptian counterpart, newly-appointed Egyptian Vice-President Omar Suleiman, about progress in beginning credible, inclusive negotiations for Egypt’s transition to a democratic government.

Biden stressed the need for a concrete reform agenda and a clear timeline which would address the aspirations of the Egyptian people in his conversation with Suleiman.