U.S. officials say the Obama administration is in talks with Egyptian officials on a proposal for Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak to resign immediately, and turn power over to a transitional government headed by Vice President Omar Suleiman with the support of the Egyptian military.
A senior State Department official said a scenario "under active discussion" is the prospect of Mr. Mubarak stepping down and taking up residence in Sharm el-Sheikh, on the Red Sea at the southern tip of the Sinai Peninsula.
Mr. Mubarak has recently said he will not go into exile and wants to die on Egyptian soil.
U.S. officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said the talks with Egypt include a proposal for a transitional government to invite members from opposition groups, including the banned Muslim Brotherhood, to begin work on opening the country's electoral system for free and fair elections in September.
On American television ABC Friday, the top U.S. military officer, Admiral Mike Mullen, cautioned against any move to cut the $1.3 billion in annual U.S. aid to Egypt. Some U.S. lawmakers, including the chairman of the Senate panel that controls foreign aid, Democrat Patrick Leahy, have called for the cut if the governmental transition in Egypt does not happen soon.
Key Players in Egypt's Crisis
- President Hosni Mubarak: The 82-year-old has ruled Egypt for 30 years as leader of the National Democratic Party. Egypt's longest-serving president came to power after the assassination of his predecessor, Anwar Sadat.
- Mohamed ElBaradei: The Nobel Peace laureate and former Egyptian diplomat has gained international attention as a vocal critic of Mr. Mubarak and his government. Until recently he headed the U.N.'s International Atomic Energy Agency, and he has lived outside Egypt for years. ElBaradei founded the nonpartisan movement National Association for Change, and has offered to lead a transitional administration in Egypt if Mr. Mubarak steps down.
- Vice President Omar Suleiman: The new Egyptian vice president has served as head of intelligence and is a close ally of President Mubarak. He earned international respect for his role as a mediator in Middle East affairs and for curbing Islamic extremism.
- Ayman Nour: The political dissident founded the Al Ghad or "tomorrow" party. Nour ran against Mr. Mubarak in the 2005 election and was later jailed on corruption charges. The government released him in 2009 under pressure from the United States and other members of the international community.
- Muslim Brotherhood: The Islamic fundamentalist organization is outlawed in Egypt, but remains the largest opposition group. Its members previously held 20 percent of the seats in parliament, but lost them after a disputed election in late 2010. The group leads a peaceful political and social movement aimed at forming an Islamic state.
Mullen also said he has been assured by his Egyptian counterpart that troops will not fire on protesters.
The U.S. Senate passed a resolution late Thursday calling on President Mubarak to immediately begin a peaceful transition to a democratic political system. It says the transition includes transferring power to a caretaker government, in coordination with the opposition, civil society, and military, to enact the necessary reforms to hold free and fair elections this year.
The resolution, co-sponsored by Republican John McCain and Democrat John Kerry, also expresses "deep concern" over any organization with an extremist ideology, including the Muslim Brotherhood. It calls on all political movements and parties in Egypt to "affirm their commitment" to non-violence and the rule of law and the fundamental principles and practices of democracy.
It also urges the Egyptian military to demonstrate the "maximum professionalism and restraint."
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