Feb 2 (Reuters) - The U.S. stance on the crisis in Egypt has evolved dramatically as events unfold rapidly on the ground. A week after declaring President Hosni Mubarak's government to be stable, Washington is now calling on the Egyptian leader to begin an immediate transition of power. (For a graphic, please see link.reuters.com/cez77r)
Day 1, Tuesday, Jan. 25
- Protests begin in Egypt on the day that U.S. President Barack Obama gives an evening State of the Union address to Congress.
- Secretary of State Hillary Clinton gives first high-level U.S. response, saying: “Our assessment is that the Egyptian government is stable and is looking for ways to respond to the legitimate needs and interests of the Egyptian people.”
The U.S. comments focused on calling for non-violence and restraint while thousands of Egyptians clashed with police and demanded President Hosni Mubarak step down.
- Obama’s State of the Union speech does not mention Egypt but does refer to events in Tunisia and says the United States “supports the democratic aspirations of all people.” Lawmakers applaud.
- After Obama’s speech, White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs says: “We support the universal rights of the Egyptian people, including the rights to freedom of expression, association and assembly. The Egyptian government has an important opportunity to be responsive to the aspirations of the Egyptian people, and pursue political, economic and social reforms that can improve their lives and help Egypt prosper.”
Day 2, Wednesday, Jan. 26
- Obama does not mention Egypt in prepared remarks during a visit to Wisconsin to promote the economic message in his State of the Union address. In Egypt, police fight with thousands of Egyptians who defy government ban to protest.
- Gibbs on Air Force One is asked whether the United States still backs Mubarak. His response: “Egypt is a strong ally.”
- Back in Washington, Clinton says: “We urge the Egyptian authorities not to prevent peaceful protests or block communications, including on social media sites.” She also says: “I do think it’s possible for there to be reforms, and that is what we are urging and calling for.”
Day 3, Thursday, Jan. 27
- As protests spread to the city of Suez, where protesters clash with security forces, U.S. Vice President Joe Biden calls Mubarak an ally on Middle East peace efforts and says, “I would not refer to him as a dictator.”
- Obama in a YouTube interview says: “Egypt’s been an ally of ours on a lot of critical issues ... but I’ve always said to him (Mubarak) that making sure that they are moving forward on reform — political reform, economic reform — is absolutely critical for the long-term well-being of Egypt.”
Day 4, Friday, Jan. 28
- State Department issues travel alert for U.S. citizens going to Egypt, notes that the Egyptian government has imposed a curfew in Cairo, Alexandria and Suez.
- The White House, in the strongest U.S. reaction so far, says the United States will review $1.5 billion in aid to Egypt. “We will be reviewing our assistance posture based on events that take place in the coming days,” Gibbs says.
- Obama speaks with Mubarak for about 30 minutes after the Egyptian president, in a televised statement, calls for a national dialogue to avoid chaos. Mubarak orders tanks and troops onto the streets to restore control.
Obama says he urged Mubarak to undertake sweeping reforms: “I just spoke to him after his speech and I told him he has a responsibility to give meaning to those words, to take concrete steps and actions that deliver on that promise.”
Day 5, Saturday, Jan. 29
- Obama meets with his national security team on Egypt.
- After Mubarak sacks his government and picks intelligence chief Omar Suleiman as vice president, U.S. State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley tweets that the Egyptian leader “can’t reshuffle the deck and then stand pat.”
Day 6, Sunday, Jan. 30
- Clinton on television talk shows repeatedly dodges questions about whether Mubarak should resign but brings the term “orderly transition” into the official U.S. message for the first time. “We want to see an orderly transition so that no one fills a void, that there not be a void, that there be a well thought out plan that will bring about a democratic participatory government,” she tells “Fox News Sunday.”
Her comments come as thousands protest in central Cairo.
Day 7, Monday, Jan. 31
- Obama dispatches Frank Wisner, a former U.S. ambassador to Egypt, to tell Mubarak privately that he must prepare for an “orderly transition” of power.
- Publicly, the White House continues to call for democratic reforms but will not be drawn on Mubarak’s fate. Gibbs says: “We’re not picking between those on the street and those in the government.”
Day 8, Tuesday, Feb. 1
- State Department orders the departure of all non-emergency U.S. government personnel and their families from Egypt.
- Obama makes statement at White House in which he says he spoke with Mubarak after the Egyptian leader, in a televised address, says he will not seek re-election. He says he told Mubarak that “an orderly transition must be meaningful, it must be peaceful and it must begin now.”
Day 9, Wednesday, Feb. 2
- The White House condemns the violence that has erupted in Egypt and says the United States is concerned about attacks on peaceful demonstrators.
- U.S. officials are vague when pressed on whether Obama’s call for an immediate transition of power means the United States wants Mubarak to step down before scheduled elections in September. (Reporting by Tabassum Zakaria; editing by Ross Colvin and Mohammad Zargham)