President Obama declined today to publicly pressure Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak to comply with protesters demands that he step down immediately, saying that "the future of Egypt is going to be in the hands of Egyptians" and that Mubarak will "end up making the right decision" on how to move forward.
Obama was critical, however, of the regime's inability or failure to halt attacks on protesters and journalists who have been broadcasting the uprising worldwide.
"We continue to be crystal clear that we oppose violence as a response to this crisis," the president said at a news conference with Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper. "We are sending a strong and unequivocal message that attacks on reporters are unacceptable, attacks on human rights activists are unacceptable, attacks on peaceful protesters are unacceptable. The Egyptian government has a responsibility to protect the rights of its people. Those demonstrating also have a right do so peacefully."
A senior administration official told ABC News today 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."
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. 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."
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, which is banned in Egypt but has 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.