Jake Tapper, David Kerley and Kirit Radia report:
The Obama administration on Saturday distanced itself from comments about Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak made by a man the president had used as an envoy to Mubarak just days before.
Saying he was speaking for himself, former U.S. Ambassador to Egypt Frank Wisner said at a security conference in Munich, Germany, that "President Mubarak remains utterly critical in the days ahead as we sort our way toward the future."
Wisner said that Mubarak "must stay in office in order to steer those changes through. … This is an ideal moment for him to show the way forward."
State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley said, "We have great respect for Frank Wisner and we were deeply appreciative of his willingness to travel to Egypt last week. He has not continued in any official capacity following the trip. The views he expressed today are his own. He did not coordinate his comments with the U.S. government."
On Sunday, at the request of President Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Wisner — who has a close relationship with Mubarak — flew to Cairo to deliver a message to Mubarak that neither he nor his son Gamal should be on the ballot for the September presidential elections.
After Wisner's message became public, he was recalled because his usefulness as a conduit had been undercut, administration officials said.
Wisner, speaking via videoteleconference, today said that "The Egyptian constitution is quite clear: If the presidency is vacated, then the speaker of parliament takes over and in a couple of months you have elections. Those elections would take place under the current dispositions. Those dispositions are currently unacceptable to those protesting in the streets of Cairo today."
"The more Egyptians hear from the outside world that the president has got to go," the more a “negative force” is created inside the country, Wisner said. "This is a time for sensible and restrained external commentary."
– Jake Tapper, David Kerley and Kirit Radia