'PR disaster.' Mubarak delivers speech
Photo: AP
Tahrir Square, Saturday
Photo: AP

Report: Army told Mubarak to step down or face 'soft coup'

Officials tell Washington Post Egyptian president's initial refusal to resign angered White House, surprised his aides, prompted military to issue ultimatum. On Friday Mubarak was told he must step down, and within hours was headed to Sharm el-Sheikh

Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak's initial refusal to resign surprised his aides, angered the White House, enraged Cairo's legions of protesters and pushed the country closer to chaos, senior American officials told the Washington Post.


The officials said that within hours of Mubarak's speech, in which he appeared determined to cling to office, Egyptian army officials confronted the discredited president with an ultimatum: Step down voluntarily, or be forced out.


According to the Washington Post's report, published Saturday, the likelihood of Mubarak's departure alternately rose and dipped as US military officers and diplomats "quietly worked with their Egyptian counterparts in a search for peaceful resolution to the country's worst unrest in six decades."


By midweek, the report said, senior military and civilian leaders reached an apparent agreement with Mubarak on some form of power transfer. Communication between top American and Egyptian officials had become increasingly sporadic early this week as Mubarak's deputies complained publicly about US interference in Cairo's affairs. But then, according to the Washington Post, US intelligence and military officials began to learn details of the plan by Egyptian military leaders - something between a "negotiated exit and a soft coup d'etat - to relieve Mubarak of most, if not all, of his powers."


The plan, officials told the Washington Post, went into effect Thursday with announcements in Cairo to pro-democracy demonstrators that their key demands were about to be met. A rare meeting was convened of Egypt's Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, and afterward a military spokesman released a communiqué that seemed to affirm the army's control over the government.


Protestor at Cairo's Tahrir Square, Saturday (Photo: AP)


Hours later in Washington, CIA Director Leon told the House Intelligence Committee there was a "strong likelihood that Mubarak may step down this evening," according to the report.


At 10 pm (Cairo time) Mubarak said in a nationally televised address that he would transfer some of his duties to Vice President Omar Suleiman but offered no hint of stepping down.


US officials and Middle East experts who analyzed the speech said it was a case of extraordinary miscalculation on Mubarak's part. "It was a public relations disaster," Daniel Kurtzer, a former US ambassador to Egypt, told the Washington Post.


A US government official told the newspaper that shortly after the speech, which was described by some American officials as bordering on delusional, "support for Mubarak from (the) military dropped precipitously.


"The military had been willing - with the right tone in the speech - to wait and see how it played out," the official was quoted by the Washington Post as saying. "They didn't like what they saw."


According to the report, even Suleiman, Mubarak's longtime intelligence chief, joined ranks with military leaders late Thursday. "He had been trying to walk a fine line between retaining support for Mubarak while trying to infuse common sense into the equation," the US official told the Washington Post. "By the end of the day, it was clear the situation was no longer tenable."


Mubarak was told Friday that he must step down, and within hours, he was on his way to the Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh.



פרסום ראשון: 02.12.11, 14:06
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