The Obama administration is discussing with Egyptian officials the immediate resignation of President Hosni Mubarak as one of several scenarios for a transition of power, a U.S. official said.
The U.S. move comes after 10 days of anti-government protests in Egypt and ahead of a mass “Day of Departure” rally planned by protesters in Cairo’s Tahrir Square on Friday to force Mubarak to quit.
The 82-year-old Egyptian leader, speaking in an interview with ABC on Thursday after bloodshed in Cairo that killed 10 people, said he believed his country still needed him.
“If I resign today, there will be chaos,” said Mubarak, who has promised to step down in September. Asked to comment on calls for him to resign, he said: “I don’t care what people say about me. Right now I care about my country.”
U.S. officials said on Thursday they were talking to Egyptian officials about a variety of ways to move toward a transition of power, including one in which Mubarak leaves office immediately.
“That’s one scenario,” said a senior Obama administration official who spoke on condition of anonymity. “There are a number of scenarios, but (it is) wrong to suggest we have discussed only one with the Egyptians.”
The New York Times earlier said Washington was discussing a proposal for Mubarak to turn over power to a transitional government headed by Vice President Omar Suleiman with the support of the Egyptian military.
The White House would not confirm the Times report but said discussions have been under way with Egyptians in an attempt to resolve the crisis.
The Times also quoted a senior Egyptian official as saying that what Washington was asking for could not be done, citing clauses in the Egyptian Constitution that bar the vice president from assuming power.
Under the constitution, the speaker of parliament would succeed the president.
“That’s my technical answer,” the official added. “My political answer is they should mind their own business.”
Moving to defuse an unprecedented challenge to his 30-year-rule, Mubarak appointed Suleiman, a former intelligence chief, as vice-president and offered talks on reforms.
But that has failed to satisfy protesters who are hoping to rally thousands of Egyptians on Friday for a fresh demonstration to try to force Mubarak to quit now.
Protesters in Tahrir (Liberation) Square, which has become the hub of pro-democracy demonstrations, were hoping to be joined by thousands more for a big demonstration they are calling the “Friday of Departure.”
Organizers called on people to march from wherever they were toward the square, the state television building and the parliament building — all within around a mile of one another in the heart of the city.
The U.S. State Department said it expected confrontation in what would be the 11th day of protests.
An estimated 150 people have died in the protests, at least 10 of them in confrontations which erupted in Tahrir Square on Wednesday when pro-Mubarak supporters attacked the protesters.
State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley said Washington believed elements close to the government or Mubarak’s ruling party were responsible for the violence which erupted on Wednesday. The Interior Ministry has denied it ordered its agents or officers to attack anti-Mubarak protesters.