Obama goes further over Mubarak departure
He was asked directly, in a news conference with Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, if change could happen while Mr Mubarak remained in charge. The president said that Mr Mubarak should consult with those around him, listen to the voices of the Egyptian people, and make a judgment. Mr Mubarak had, Mr Obama said, already made the break by announcing that he was going in September, so he had to decide how to make the transition legitimate. He hoped the Egyptian president would end up making the right decision.
Again, Mr Obama said that it was important that the transition begin now. He said the US was involved in discussions but the decisions would be taken by the Egyptian people.
The Obama administration is relieved that today's huge protest didn't turn nasty. Violence is the biggest threat to the change the US wants. There were real nerves in Washington that the army would be forced to choose between their commander-in-chief and the people. Instead they were judiciously neutral, keeping rival demonstrators apart.
The president's spokesman Robert Gibbs said on Friday that the world was waiting for the Egyptian government to take quick, concrete steps toward an orderly transition. It should have happened on Tuesday, he said. They need to sit down with a coalition representing a broad cross-section of Egyptian society.
The reason this isn't happening is because the opposition won't talk while Mr Mubarak remains in power. Mr Gibbs did not rise to the bait when a reporter suggested that the demonstrators might be asked to change their position.
One brief exchange was tantalising though. Mr Gibbs was asked if there had been an assassination attempt against Vice-President Omar Suleiman in the last few days. Looking rattled, he said he wasn't going to get into that. Other sources are equally reticent as to any detail but certainly suggest something happened. If it is true, the big question would be who would be behind it this attempt.