Factbox: The changing U.S. reaction to Egypt's crisis

WASHINGTON Thu Feb 10, 2011 2:26pm EST

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The United States has struggled to find its footing during the Egyptian crisis as it tries to balance its support for protesters' aspirations with its desire for an orderly political transition in its strategic ally.

Here are comments by President Barack Obama and other U.S. officials over the course of the uprising in Egypt:

Day 17 -- Thursday, February 10

Amid widespread reports that Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak is likely to step down later in the day, U.S. officials say Obama is closely following the "fluid situation" in Egypt while on a trip to Michigan.

* "We're going to have to wait and see what's going on," Obama says, when asked for his comment on the situation.

Day 16 -- Wednesday, February 9

After appearing to throw its support behind a transition process led by Mubarak's new vice president, Omar Suleiman, Washington shows growing irritation, saying it has still not seen "real, concrete" reforms.

* The White House steps up pressure on Suleiman after coming under fire for not calling on Mubarak to step down immediately. Protesters and human rights groups say Suleiman is only interested in preserving the old order.

Day 15 -- Tuesday, February 8

* Vice President Joe Biden speaks again by telephone to Suleiman, stressing U.S. support "for an orderly transition in Egypt that is prompt, meaningful, peaceful, and legitimate."

* Washington reiterates it call for the Egyptian government to stop harassing protesters and journalists and to immediately repeal an emergency law allowing detention without charge.

* U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates says Egypt's military has behaved in "an exemplary fashion" by standing largely on the sidelines during the demonstrations.

Day 14 -- Monday, February 7

* "Obviously, Egypt has to negotiate a path and they're making progress," Obama says.

* State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley, acknowledging doubts about the credibility of the transition process, says: "Our advice would be: test the seriousness of the government and those who are participating to see if it can deliver."

* "The United States doesn't pick leaders of other countries," says White House spokesman Robert Gibbs.

Day 13 -- Sunday, February 6

* Obama says Egypt "is not going to go back to what it was" and tells Fox News he is confident an orderly transition will produce a government that will remain a U.S. partner.

* Secretary of State Hillary Clinton says Mubarak has responded seriously to U.S. calls for constitutional change, chiefly through his pledge not to run for president again. Clinton says she will not "prejudge" a bid by the Muslim Brotherhood to enter Egypt's political process.

Day 12 -- Saturday, February 5

* Clinton says the United States backs a transition process led by Suleiman, and that it must be given time to mature. She warns that radical elements may try to derail the process.

* Obama's envoy in the crisis, Frank Wisner, says it is critical that Mubarak stays in power for the time being to manage the transition.

* The State Department and White House quickly disavow his comments, saying Wisner spoke in a private capacity.

Day 11 -- Friday, February 4

* The White House calls for "concrete steps" toward an orderly transition but again stops short of demanding Mubarak's immediate resignation.

* "Having made that psychological break, that decision that he will not be running again, I think the most important thing for him to ask himself ... is how do we make the transition effective, lasting and legitimate," Obama says. "And my hope is ... that he will end up making the right decision.'

Day 10 -- Thursday, February 3

* The United States condemns attacks on journalists, while. Clinton calls on the Egyptian government and opposition "to begin immediately serious negotiations on a peaceful and orderly transition."

* Republican Senator John McCain suggests the United States should consider suspending aid to Egypt's military. The U.S. Senate passes a bipartisan resolution calling on Mubarak to transfer power to an inclusive caretaker government.

Day 9 -- Wednesday, February 2

* The White House condemns the violence in Egypt and says it 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 September elections.

Day 8 -- Tuesday, February 1

* The State Department orders the departure from Egypt of nonessential U.S. government personnel and their families.

* Obama says he spoke with Mubarak after the Egyptian leader pledged in a television address not to 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 7 -- Monday, January 31

* Obama dispatches 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 6 -- Sunday, January 30

* Clinton, on television talk shows, 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 5 -- Saturday, January 29

* After Mubarak sacks his government and makes Suleiman vice president, State Department spokesman Crowley tweets that the Egyptian leader "can't reshuffle the deck and then stand pat."

Day 4 -- Friday, January 28

* The White House 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.

* Officials later say no such review is planned.

* Obama speaks with Mubarak after the Egyptian president, in a televised statement, calls for a national dialogue to avoid chaos. Obama says he urged Mubarak to undertake sweeping reforms "to meet the aspirations of the Egyptian people."

Day 3 -- Thursday, January 27

* As protests spread, 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 reform "is absolutely critical for the long-term well-being of Egypt."

Day 2 -- Wednesday, January 26

* Obama does not mention Egypt in prepared remarks during a visit to Wisconsin as Egyptian police fight with thousands of people who defy a government ban to protest.

* Gibbs is asked whether the United States still backs Mubarak. His response: "Egypt is a strong ally."

* Clinton urges Egyptian authorities not to prevent peaceful protests or block communications.

Day 1 -- Tuesday, January 25

* Protests begin in Egypt on the day Obama gives an evening State of the Union address to Congress. Obama does not mention Egypt but does refer to protests in Tunisia and says the United States "supports the democratic aspirations of all people."

* Clinton gives the 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."

(Compiled by Andrew Quinn, John O'Callaghan and Ross Colvin in Washington; editing by Mohammad Zargham)

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