As Opposition Groups Meet, Egyptian Leader Calls for Normalcy


A senior administration official told ABC News Friday that over the last week, Mubarak has not been sleeping, seems unstable, and goes back and forth between standing firm about staying and then saying that he is not appreciated and should just leave. Despite what Mubarak is saying, the official says he thinks that it will be, at the most, a matter of weeks before he hands over power.

The president said he has spoken twice to Mubarak since the crisis in Egypt began, and told him that "going back to the old ways is not going to work."

"I believe that President Mubarak cares about his country. He's proud, but he's also a patriot," Obama said. "What I suggested to him is 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."

Senior administration sources tell ABC News that the president is trying to thread the needle -- not pushing Mubarak out too soon, before the constitution has been changed to allow democratic reforms, while making it clear that it's untenable for him to try to stay until the September presidential elections.

Mubarak has said he won't seek re-election in September, but will finish his term. Protesters are demanding his immediate removal.

"We are consulting widely within Egypt and with the international community to communicate our strong belief that a successful and orderly transition must be meaningful," Obama said.

This is the president's second direct comment on the situation in Egypt of the week. He last took to the cameras Tuesday to convey a similar message and tell President Mubarak that relinquishing power was the right decision, but the transition to a new government "must begin now."

White House officials say that a number of scenarios for a way forward in Egypt are being discussed, and they caution against reports where each new scenario "is anointed as the definitive way forward," a senior official says. "It's still a very fluid situation and lots of difference scenarios are being put forward by the Egyptian government, the opposition, us," and other nations.

Mubarak told ABC News' Christiane Amanpour in an exclusive interview Thursday that while he wants to step down, he fears his immediate departure would create chaos in the country.

"I don't care what people say about me," the 82-year-old said in the 30-minute-long interview. "Right now I care about my country, I care about Egypt."

The United States has strongly condemned the violence that has sprung up in Cairo's Tahrir, or Liberation, Square, over the last ten days, including harassment of journalists. White House Press Secretary Gibbs said they "speak volumes about the seriousness with which the government looks at an orderly transition."

Mubarak blamed the violence on the Muslim Brotherhood opposition group, which is banned in Egypt but has rallied to the street demonstrations. Protesters charge that the pro-Mubarak supporters who have attacked them in recent days are thugs recruited by the government to create chaos. Mubarak denied any government involvement.

The Brotherhood represents another concern that the White House fears could come to fruition if Mubarak leaves too soon, creating a power vacuum. Because the Mubarak government has repressed civil society -- opposition parties, an independent press, reform groups -- the Brotherhood is perhaps the leading opposition group to Mubarak's party.

The Muslim Brotherhood told ABC News' Christiane Amanpour that its party does not intend to field a presidential candidate or seek ministers in a new cabinet.

The Associated Press and ABC's Martha Raddatz, Jake Tapper, Andrew Morse and Sara Just contributed to this report.

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