Obama Demands Orderly Transition But Not Ready to Call for Egyptian President’s Ouster Before Election

By Fred Lucas | February 4, 2011 | 5:34 PM EST

President Barack Obama. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

Washington (CNSNews.com) – President Barack Obama stopped short of calling for Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak’s immediate resignation, as many people there continued to demonstrate saying Mubarak’s resignation is the only path to reform. But Obama did appeal to the patriotism of Mubarak, who has ruled Egypt for 30 years.

“I have had two conversations with President Mubarak since this crisis in Egypt began,” said Obama during a joint press conference with Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper on Friday. “Each time, I emphasized the fact that the future of Egypt is going to be in the hands of Egyptians. It is not us who will determine it.”

“But I have also said, in light of what’s happened over the last two weeks, going back to the old ways is not going to work,” said Obama. “Suppression is not going to work. Engaging in violence is not going to work. Attempting to shut down information flow is not going to work.”

“In order for Egypt to have a bright future, which I believe it can have, the only thing that can work is moving an orderly transition process that begins right now, that engages all the parties, that leads to Democratic practices, fair and free elections, and representative government that is responsive to the grievances of the Egyptian people,” Obama continued.

Protesters seeking President Hosni Mubarak’s immediate resignation gathered in the thousands in Tahrir Square in Cairo on Friday, despite the previous day’s violent clashes with pro-Mubarak activists. The crowd size approached 100,000, according to the Associated Press. Earlier in the week, the AP reported 250,000 gathered in the square.

“I believe President Mubarak cares about his country,” Obama said in the first forum in which he has taken questions from the media on the matter. “He is proud, but he is also a patriot. What I suggested to him is that he needs to consult with those who are around him in his government. He needs to listen to what’s being voiced by the Egyptian people and make a judgment about a pathway forward that is orderly but that is meaningful and serious.”

“He’s already said he is not going to run for reelection,” Obama continued. “This is someone who has been in power for a very long time and he made that psychological break. The most important thing for him to ask himself, the Egyptian government to ask itself as well as the opposition to ask itself is: How do we make that transition effective?”

In this image from Egyptian state television aired Tuesday evening Feb. 1, 2011, President Hosni Mubarak delivers an address announcing he will not run for a new term in office in September elections. AP Photo/Egyptian State Television via APTN)

Mubarak, 82, has agreed not to run for reelection in September, and to allow reforms to take place. He told ABC News that if he left immediately as demonstrators are demanding, the country would fall into chaos. “You don't understand the Egyptian culture and what would happen if I step down now,” Mubarak told ABC News. “I don't care what people say about me. Right now I care about my country, I care about Egypt.”

The Obama administration reportedly was in talks with top Egyptian officials about the possibility of Mubarak immediately resigning and handing over a military-backed transitional government headed by Vice President Omar Suleiman, according to several news reports citing anonymous sources. This transition government would handle the country’s transient to free and fair elections.

Nobel Peace laureate Mohamed ElBaradei, one of the leaders of the protest movement, detailed his plans on Friday: a transitional government headed by a presidential council of two or three figures, including a military representative and the vice president, the Associated Press reported. While “a lot of people see him [the vice president] as part of the Mubarak regime .. these are issues that could be sorted out,” said ElBaradei, who repeated the demand of other protesters that Mubarak immediately step down.