Politics

Obama Tells Mubarak Transition Must Begin Now

As the political situation in Egypt continues to shift moment by moment, President Obama directly addressed the country's demonstrators from the White House Tuesday evening. "To the people of Egypt, particularly the young people of Egypt, I want to be clear," he said. "We hear your voices. I have an unyielding belief that you will determine your own destiny and seize the promise of a better future for your children and your grandchildren."

The world has been closely watching the stance the Obama White House is taking regarding the turmoil in Egypt. It's a test for President Obama, who is faced with supporting the push for democracy while maintaining relations with a key ally in the Middle East.

The president walked that line Tuesday night. "[I]t is not the role of any other country to determine Egypt's leaders. Only the Egyptian people can do that. What is clear -- and what I indicated tonight to [Egyptian] President [Hosni] Mubarak -- is my belief that an orderly transition must be meaningful, it must be peaceful, and it must begin now."

Mr. Obama had a roughly 30-minute conversation with the embattled Mubarak before making his remarks and the president says Mubarak understands that the status quo is not sustainable. A White House official tells Fox, "The President had a direct and frank conversation with President Mubarak. He said it was clear how much he loves his country, and how difficult this is for him."

However, the official said, "President Obama also explained to him that an orderly transition can't be prolonged - it must begin now."

Officials say that may require Mubarak leaving before his nation's upcoming fall election.

A well-placed source tells Fox White House Correspondent Mike Emanuel that the president asked Mubarak not to run in that election. He passed the message through Former US diplomat Frank Wisner, who was in Cairo over the weekend.

Indeed, that is precisely what Mubarak told his people in a late afternoon Eastern Time address. However, Mubarak said nothing of the timing of his departure.

White House officials say the president watched that address from the White House Situation Room while meeting with his foreign policy team on the unfolding situation there. The official says that meeting lasted from 3:38pm ET to 4:51pm ET.

The unusual dynamic in Egypt has revealed a supportive military and brought images of tanks overflowing with protestors. The president praised the military for its actions and noted that this is a turning point for the people of Egypt, "We've borne witness to the beginning of a new chapter in the history of a great country, and a long-time partner of the United States."

Fox News Channel's Mike Emanuel contributed to this report.