The Obama administration conceded Monday that it will not endorse the demands of Egyptian protesters for embattled President Hosni Mubarak to step down immediately, saying a precipitous exit could set back the country’s democratic transition.
After several days of mixed messages about whether it wants to see Mubarak stay or go, Washington stepped up calls for a faster, more inclusive national dialogue on reform in Egypt.
Under Egypt’s constitution, Mubarak’s resignation would trigger an election in 60 days. U.S. officials said that’s not enough time to prepare.
“A question that that would pose is whether Egypt today is prepared to have a competitive, open election,” State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley said. “Given the recent past, where, quite honestly, elections were less than free and fair there’s a lot of work that has to be done to get to a point where you can have free and fair elections.”
The administration coalesced around a position that cautiously welcomes nascent reform efforts begun by newly appointed Vice President Omar Suleiman that may or may not result in Mubarak’s resignation before September, when new elections are to be held. Mubarak has said he will not run.
President Barack Obama said Egypt is making progress toward a solution to the political crisis enveloping the country and preparing for free elections to replace Mubarak.