Egyptian Leaders Discussing Ways to Ease Mubarak Out of Power [Updated]

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Protesters prevent an Egyptian army tank from moving into Tahrir Square. Photo: PATRICK BAZ/AFP/Getty Images

For the twelfth day in a row, crowds are rallying in Cairo's Tahrir Square, demanding an end to President Mubarak's 30-year authoritarian rule over Egypt. Now Mubarak appears "increasingly isolated," since "the Obama administration and some members of the Egyptian military and civilian elite are possibly pursuing plans to nudge him from power," according to the New York Times. The country’s newly named vice-president, Omar Suleiman, and other top military leaders have been "discussing steps to limit Mr. Mubarak’s decision-making authority" and possibly remove him from the presidential palace altogether. Meanwhile, after chaos earlier this week, Cairo seemed slightly calmer today, according to CNN. However, heavy military presence persisted on the streets and demonstrators formed a human chain to prevent tanks from passing through the barricades into the anti-Mubarak enclave in Tahrir Square. The latest on the situation in Egypt, below:

Opposition leaders met with Egypt's new vice-president Omar Suleiman today to discuss "easing President Hosni Mubarak from power." As soon as possible. Among the proposals under discussion is "Article 139 of the Constitution," which allows the vice-president to assume control if the president is unable to govern any longer. This would leave Suleiman in power, which at least one opposition group, the leftist Tagammu party, is in favor of. A transitional government headed by Suleiman would then negotiate with opposition figures to amend Egypt’s constitution and begin a process of democratic changes. [CNN, NYT]

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said it was important to support Mr. Suleiman, "a pillar of the Egyptian establishment," as he seeks to defuse street protests. The United States and leading European nations are throwing their weight behind a gradual transition of power. [NYT]

The Committee of the Wise now exists. Members are self-appointed. The group is made up of intellectuals, artists, diplomats, and businessmen, and it wants to be at the table during crucial government transition talks. The Committee is also in favor of Suleiman taking power from Mubarak. [CNN]

Meanwhile, Mohamed ElBaradei's National Association for Change announced a newly formed opposition that includes ElBaradei, Muslim Brotherhood leader Mohamed Beltagy and liberal Ghad party leader Ayman Nour. They called for Mubarak's immediate resignation and the right for peaceful demonstration. [CNN]

Many opposition leaders have insisted that they will not negotiate with Suleiman until Mubarak is out of office: "They have been counting on the impact of his resignation, should it occur, to ensure that senior Egyptian officials do not try to derail the movement toward a constitutional democracy." [NYT]

Al Jazeera said Egyptian authorities had arrested its bureau chief and one of its journalists in Cairo a day after it said its offices in Cairo had been torched. [NYT]

Mubarak summoned the most senior economy officials — including ministers responsible for oil and finances — to a palace far from the crowds in Tahrir Square to discuss "the crisis." Oh, yeah, that old thing. Huh, maybe you should do something about that. [NYT]

A failed assassination attempt on Egypt's vice-president left two of his bodyguards dead, according to Fox News. A senior Obama administration official confirmed that the attack happened soon after Suleiman was appointed, on January 29. White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs declined to address the assassination reports when asked earlier by Fox News. [Fox News]

A gas terminal exploded in Egypt's northern Sinai Peninsula today, setting off a massive fire that was contained by shutting off the flow of gas to neighboring Jordan and Egypt. Egypt's natural gas company said the fire was caused by a gas leak. However, a local security official said an explosive device was detonated inside the terminal, and the regional governor, Abdel Wahab Mabrouk, said he suspected sabotage. The blast did not cause casualties. [AP via Newser]