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Mr. Obama said that since Mr. Mubarak announced he wouldn’t run for re-election, “the key question he should be asking himself is how do I leave a legacy behind in which Egypt is able to get through this transformative period, and my hope is he will end up making the right decision.”

Earlier Friday, U.S. officials said talks are under way between the Obama administration and top Egyptian officials on the possible immediate resignation of Mr. Mubarak and the formation of a military-backed caretaker government that could prepare the country for free and fair elections later this year.

The officials spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the sensitive diplomatic talks, which are continuing.

The officials stressed that the United States isn’t seeking to impose a solution on Egypt but said the administration had made a judgment that Mr. Mubarak has to go soon if there is to be a peaceful resolution to the crisis.

“The president has said that now is the time to begin a peaceful, orderly and meaningful transition, with credible, inclusive negotiations,” a White House spokesman, Tommy Vietor, said Thursday night. “We have discussed with the Egyptians a variety of different ways to move that process forward, but all of those decisions must be made by the Egyptian people.”

White House and State Department officials would not discuss details of the discussions U.S. officials are having with the Egyptians. Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. spoke with Egyptian Vice President Omar Suleiman on Thursday, a day after a similar conversation between Mr. Suleiman and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton. Officials said neither Mr. Biden nor Mrs. Clinton made a specific call for Mr. Mubarak to resign immediately but pressed for measures that would ease tensions on the streets and set the stage for democratic elections.

An administration official said there is no single plan being discussed with the Egyptians. Rather, the administration is pursuing different ideas with Egyptian figures on how to proceed quickly with a process that includes a broad range of voices and leads to free and fair elections — in essence, different ways to accomplish those goals.

Among those options is a proposal for Mubarak to resign immediately — which the embattled president has refused to do — and for Mr. Mubarak to cede power to a transitional government run by Mr. Suleiman.

But the official rejected the notion that the White House was trying to impose that idea and said it was not at all clear it would happen. The official spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal deliberations.

The discussions come amid escalating violence between pro- and anti-Mubarak forces.

The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said Friday the U.S. hasn’t raised its military readiness or alert status. Adm. Mike Mullen also said there shouldn’t be any rush to terminate military assistance.

Adm. Mullen also reinforced Mr. Obama’s call for a “peaceful, nonviolent transition” and said that decision ultimately must be made by the Egyptian people and their government.

As for U.S. assistance to Egypt, which has averaged about $1.3 billion a year, Adm. Mullen said Congress shouldn’t move too hastily to cancel the program. Adm. Mullen said on ABC’s “Good Morning America” he would “caution against doing anything until we know what’s really going on.”

The United States on Thursday severely criticized what it called systematic attacks on journalists in Egypt and said they appeared to be an attempt to shut out reporting of even bigger anti-government demonstrations to come.

Mrs. Clinton condemned “in the strongest terms” the pro-government mobs that beat, threatened and intimidated reporters in Cairo.

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