Saturday, February 5, 2011

Plans to distance Mubarak from power being discussed, says report

WASHINGTON: New Egyptian vice president Omar Suleiman and top Egyptian military leaders are discussing plans to limit President Hosni Mubarak's authority and possibly remove him from the presidential palace in Cairo, The New York Times reported on Saturday.

Citing unnamed US and Egyptian officials, the newspaper said these plans did not call for him to be removed from presidency immediately. But they would allow for the formation of a transitional government headed by Suleiman, which would negotiate with opposition figures amendments to Egypt's constitution and other democratic changes.

In Cairo, state news agency MENA said Mubarak held talks with members of his newly-appointed cabinet but gave no further details.

The ageing leader has shown no intention of stepping down imminently, despite huge demonstrations on Friday at Cairo's Tahrir Square -- the epicentre of the protests -- and in Alexandria.

But The Times said that among the ideas that had been discussed were suggestions that Mubarak move to his home at Sharm el-Sheikh or embark on one of his annual medical leaves to Germany for an extended checkup.

Such steps would provide him with a graceful exit and effectively remove him as the central political player, the report said.

Suleiman and top Egyptian military officers are also being encouraged to hold detailed discussions with opposition groups on opening up the political system, establishing term limits for the president and adopt some key democratic principles ahead of September elections, The Times noted.

"None of this can happen if Mubarak is at the center of the process," the paper quotes an unnamed senior US administration official as saying. "But it doesn't necessarily require the president to leave office right now."


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