Mubarak likely to step down under US brokered deal

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Washington, Feb 4 (PTI) Embattled Egyptian PresidentHosni Mubarak is likely to step down immediately and turn overpower to a transitional government headed by Vice PresidentOmar Suleiman, backed by the army.

A deal to this effect is being brokered by the Obamaadministration, which is in talks with top Egyptian leaders,New York Times reported today quoting US officials.

Officials said under the proposal, the transitionalgovernment headed by Suleiman would prepare constitutionalreform to prepare the country for a free and fair election inSeptember.

US officials, the paper said, expect the protest inEgypt to grow in size and intensity today and theadministration fears that it may spread to engulf the entireArab world, including some of its closest allies in theregion.

Notwithstanding denials by Mubarak himself that hedoes not propose to quit, the NYT said, the Obamaadministration was in advance talks with top Egyptian leadersabout the possible immediate resignation of the embattledPresident.

Washington feels that the best solution to checkprotest disintegrating into widespread violence was to taketangible steps to address the protesters'' main demand thatMubarak leave office.

"Creation of a military backed caretaker governmentin Egypt is one of the several proposals being discussedbetween officials of the two governments," the paper said.

Under the plan, Vice President Suleiman backed byChief of Egyptian armed forces Lt Gen Sami Enan and FieldMarshall Mohamed Tantawi, the Defence Minister wouldimmediately begin a process of constitutional reform.

The proposal also calls for the transitionalgovernment to open dialogue with members from a broad range ofopposition groups, including the banned Muslim Brotherhood, toopen up the country''s electoral system to hold free and fairelection in September, the paper quoted officials as saying.

Mubarak, the NYT said, had balked, so far, at leavingand there was not yet any indication that either Suleiman orthe Egyptian military was willing to abandon the President.

The reports of immediate change over in Egypt came astop US officials including Vice President Joe Biden andSecretary of State Hillary Clinton have opened constant directcontacts with Suleiman.

The top US military commander Mike Mullen said thatEgyptian army officials have "reassured"" him that they willnot fire on protesters.

The NYT said questions were being raised about whetherAmerican intelligence agencies, after the collapse of theTunisian government, had adequately warned the White House andthe top lawmakers about the prospect of an uprising in Egypt.

However, in an interview to ABC news, Mubarakadmitted he was "fed up" with being president but he couldnot step down for fear of sowing chaos in the country.

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