Hosni Mubarak may think he's hanging on through September elections, but top-level Egyptians on both sides of the protests, as well as US officials, are negotiating what the AP and the New York Times are calling his "graceful exit." Proposals on the table largely center around Mubarak stepping down in all but name, perhaps deputizing VP Omar Suleiman, then quietly slipping out of the presidential palace to his seaside home, or taking one of his annual medical leaves. Mubarak aides have in recent days stressed that he not be kicked to the curb in a humiliating way. Suleiman himself is involved in the talks, as is Egypt's PM and top military leaders.
Reform can't “happen if Mubarak is at the center of the process,” says one official. “But it doesn’t necessarily require the president to leave office right now.” Says another involved in the talks, “The reality is that the vice president is the one managing the situation and what we want to do is legalize it. Given the current situation, the president really can’t do anything, not here and not abroad, given the amount of pressure that is on him.”