Late in the Egyptian night, President Mubarak, who before had been eerily absent, finally appeared on Egyptian national television, calling for “communication and talking” to solve the country’s problems, but insisting that “fires and chaos” only threaten the country’s security.
Mubarak announced he had demanded the resignation of his entire government, and pledged to name a new government Saturday.
Mubarak gave no suggestion that he considered his own three-decade reign to be under threat. That show of confidence had a certain echo in the White House, where officials were carefully rebuffing any suggestion that Mubarak should go the way of Tunisia’s Zine El Abdine Ben Ali, who was forced out this month by massive protests after a 23-year reign.
Asked if Mubarak’s time had already passed, Gibbs responded, “Absolutely not.” What must be the focus now is dialogue and reform, he said, adding, “The time for that to happen has most certainly come.”
Yet Mr. Obama offered support for the protesters, too. "The people of Egypt have rights that are universal, that includes the right to peaceful assembly," Obama said. "These are human rights, and the United States will stand up for them everywhere."
Obama said he spoke with Mubarak by phone Friday and vowed to hold Mubarak to pledges to reform Egyptian government.
The Obama administration was clearly caught off guard by the rapidity and ferocity of events in Egypt, with a White House day set to be dominated by health care and other domestic issues turned upside down by the massive protests in Cairo and other Egyptian cities. Contingency planning was under way across the administration, with Gibbs acknowledging that “a robust set of meetings has been going on” across the administration.