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Hillary Clinton Signals US Backing for Omar Suleiman
US secretary of state stresses need for orderly transition headed by vice-president
Clinton was speaking at a security conference in Munich today, where the watchword on Egypt was the need for orderly transition.
In her most striking remarks, the US secretary of state said: "There are forces at work in any society, particularly one that is facing these kind of challenges, that will try to derail or overtake the process to pursue their own agenda, which is why I think it's important to follow the transition process announced by the Egyptian government, actually headed by vice-president Omar Suleiman."
She was presumably referring ito Suleiman's leadership of the transition rather than the government, but US officials have told their European colleagues that they view Suleiman as increasingly in control.
Clinton went on to say the transition should be transparent and inclusive, while setting out "concrete steps", moving towards orderly elections in September. She listed with approval the steps the Egyptian government had taken so far.
"President Mubarak has announced he will not stand for re-election nor will his son … He has given a clear message to his government to lead and support this process of transition," Clinton said.
"That is what the government has said it is trying to do, that is what we are supporting, and hope to see it move as orderly but as expeditiously as possible under the circumstances."
David Cameron and the German chancellor, Angela Merkel, speaking at the same conference, echoed the call for an orderly transition and cautioned against early elections.
But Cameron denied there was a trade-off between the speed of reform and stability.
"There is no stability in Egypt. We need change, reform and transition to get stability," the prime minister said. "The longer that is put off, the more likely we are to get an Egypt that we wouldn't welcome."
British officials said they were encouraged by the developments of the past 24 hours, pointing to the role of the army in preventing attacks on the demonstrators and the opening of a dialogue between Suleiman and opposition groups.
"It does have to be led by the Egyptian government but we do need a road map," one official said.