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In his conversation with Gen. Suleiman, Mr. Biden reaffirmed that the future of Egypt will be determined by the Egyptian people.

However, Mr. Ackerman said: “Respecting Egyptian sovereignty is one thing. Maintaining a level of ambiguity so thick that ordinary Egyptians cannot discern whether or not we are on their side is something else altogether.”

Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Florida Republican and chairwoman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said the Obama administration had “failed to seize the opportunity to press for reform to address the demonstrators’ frustrations and prevent chaos and violence.”

But, she added, the problem goes further back than the Obama administration’s handling of the situation. She said successive U.S. administrations had failed to develop and implement a longer-term strategy to move beyond the status quo and prepare for the future in Egypt.

“Successive administrations have repeatedly opposed and obstructed efforts by members of Congress to require accountability in ensuring Egypt met conditions for its economic assistance,” Mrs. Ros-Lehtinen said.

Acknowledging that Mr. Mubarak had been a valuable U.S. ally, she added: “It would be short-sighted and potentially dangerous for the United States to base its entire approach to another nation on the survival of one individual.”

Egypt receives annually about $1.3 billion in U.S. aid, much of which goes to the military.

Lawmakers and a panel of Middle East analysts that testified before lawmakers pressed the Obama administration to suspended this aid while the Mubarak regime clings to power.

“We simply cannot afford to be viewed in Egypt as the bankrollers of repression,” Mr. Ackerman said.