White House on time for Egyptian transition: 'Now means now'

The White House appeared to be losing patience with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak as democratic protests in the Middle Eastern country turned violent.

With Mubarak giving no indication he would leave office before a fall presidential election and demonstrators demanding his immediate removal from office, White House press secretary Robert Gibbs on Wednesday took a firmer stance than President Obama did in remarks Tuesday night calling for a "transition" of power.


Although Gibbs continued to be vague about what that should look like, he said Obama was clear in telling Mubarak that "the time for change had come.”

"[The Egyptians] don't want to see appointments. They don't want to hear speeches," Gibbs said. "They want to see concrete action by their government, and I think that's what the world waits for.

"Now means now," he said.

White House officials have been cautious since the political unrest erupted last week, but on Wednesday officials seemed to take a much harder stance toward Mubarak, who said he will not run for reelection in the country's September elections. 

Through the unrest, questions have arisen about who might take Mubarak's place after his nearly 30 years in power, and with what type of rule. Egypt has been a critical U.S. ally; the country has signed a peace treaty with Israel and assists in counter-terrorism efforts.

When asked flatly if Mubarak is a dictator, a charge Vice President Biden rejected over the weekend, Gibbs did not answer directly.

"The administration believes that President Mubarak has a chance to show the world exactly who he is by beginning this transition that is so desperately needed in his country and for his people now," Gibbs said.

Gibbs refused to speculate about what new power might emerge in Egypt, but he said administration officials are preparing for and examining different outcomes.

"We are planning for a full range of scenarios," Gibbs said.

U.S. ambassadors are still in Cairo and still in contact with officials in every level of Egyptian government, he said.

Earlier Wednesday, the White House condemned the violence and called for restraint as protesters clashed with pro-government forces.

"The United States deplores and condemns the violence that is taking place in Egypt, and we are deeply concerned about attacks on the media and peaceful demonstrators," Gibbs said in a statement. "We repeat our strong call for restraint."