Suleiman mulling figurehead role for Mubarak in Egypt: reports

Lalit K Jha

Washington, Feb 5 (PTI) New Egyptian Vice President OmarSuleiman is exploring the possibility of forming atransitional government under which Hosni Mubarak gives up hisexecutive powers and remains a figurehead president till theelections are held in September, according to media reports.

"If the discussions bear fruit, executive powers in thenew government could be gradually transferred to Suleiman, thecountry''s longtime intelligence chief, and a transitiongovernment that includes opposition figures," The Wall StreetJournal reported quoting people familiar with the matter.

These discussions come in the wake of increasing pressurefrom the international community including the US, amidstmassive protest against Mubarak for the past 11 days demandinghis ouster.

The Wall Street Journal said Suleiman has reached out toa group of Egyptian intellectuals to discuss how Mubarak''spowers might be delegated to the vice president for an interimperiod.

The move could be legal under Egypt''s constitution, thedaily said.

"It wasn''t clear whether such a deal would be acceptableto the opposition, which has insisted Mubarak step down beforenegotiations can begin," the news report said.

The Washington Post reported that the ObamaAdministration is urgently trying to persuade oppositiongroups to participate in a dialogue with Suleiman in a meetingscheduled for today.

The Obama administration, the daily said, has urgedEgyptian military to back the dialogue.

"In conversations with Defence Minister Field MarshalMohamed Tantawi and Lt Gen Sami Enan, the military chief,administration officials stressed the importance of preservingthe army''s position as the most respected institution inEgypt," the daily said.

Yesterday, US Defence Secretary Robert Gates called hisEgyptian counterpart for the fourth time.

"At the Saturday meeting, the administration hopes thatgovernment and opposition leaders will begin to draw thecontours of a multi-step transition, including the immediatesuspension of harsh emergency laws and establishment of aroadmap for constitutional change and free and fairelections," The Washington Post reported.

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