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White House: Mubarak needed to make transition 'yesterday' ; protesters ordered out of Tahrir Square.

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An Egyptian supporter of President Hosni Mubarak raises his hands in victory while facing a crowd of fellow supporters clashing with thousands of anti-government protesters at Cairo's Tahrir Square on Wednesday.(MARCO LONGARI/AFP/Getty Images)

10:11 p.m. The State Department has just tweeted that any remaining U.S. citizens wanting to leave Egypt on a government flight "should report to airport immediately. Further delay is not advisable."

10:08 p.m. CNN correspondent Ben Wedeman said on Anderson Cooper 360 there is "nothing to stop" the pro-Mubarak demonstrators, and that more violence and bloodshed should be expected throughout Thursday. Wedeman was speaking with Cooper in a sheltered location with minimal lighting. Cooper said a normal broadcast could not be done because of the threat of violence in the area.

 

9:50 p.m. With dawn approaching in Cairo, CNN is reporting that "heavy" gunfire continues to be heard in Tahrir Square, and Al Arabiya TV is reporting that one protester has been killed in the pre-dawn hours by government supporters.

6:51 p.m. CNN is reporting on gunfire and explosions in Cairo's Tahrir Square where anti-government and pro-Mubarak supporters clashed today.

6:27 p.m. Senator John McCain, R-Ariz., called on Wednesday night for Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak to step down. In a statement, he said:

"The rapidly deteriorating situation in Egypt leads me to the conclusion that President Mubarak needs to step down and relinquish power.  It is clear that the only institution in Egypt that can restore order is the army, but I fear that for it to do so on behalf of a government led by or involving President Mubarak would only escalate the violence and compromise the army's legitimacy.  I urge President Mubarak to transfer power to a caretaker administration that includes members of Egypt's military, government, civil society, and pro-democracy opposition, which can lead the country to free, fair, and internationally credible elections this year as part of a real transition to democracy.

"All Americans should be appreciative of President Mubarak's long record of cooperation with our government, which has helped to fight terrorism and promote peace and security in the Middle East and North Africa.  I remain concerned about the role of the Muslim Brotherhood and other organizations in Egypt that espouse an extremist ideology.  But Egypt must have a democratic future.  It is the will of the Egyptian people.  It is in the interest of the United States.  And the greatest contribution that President Mubarak can make to the cause of democracy in his country is to remove himself from power."

 

6:00 p.m. CNN reports more than 600 people have been hurt in riots in Cairo.

5:26 p.m. The State Department just issued a release on the status of U.S. citizen evacuations from Egypt. An excerpt:

"The welfare and safety of U.S. citizens in Egypt remains one of the State Department’s top priorities. More than 1,900 U.S. citizens and their family members have been evacuated from Egypt in an operation that began on Monday, January 31.  We plan to continue evacuation efforts on Thursday, February 3, and are assessing the need to continue flights after that.  

"We continue with our efforts to assist any U.S. citizens who wish to leave Egypt and are boarding additional flights today. As curfew has been eased by three hours, we expect more U.S. citizens will be able to reach the Cairo airport.

 

...

"Although non-emergency personnel at our Embassy are leaving Egypt under ordered departure status, the Department continues to send personnel into Cairo and to our safe haven locations to assist U.S. citizens. The Embassy remains open for U.S. citizen services only during non-curfew hours. 

"The most up-to-date information for U.S. citizens in Egypt can be found on our website Travel.State.Gov." 

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4:47 p.m. Pro-Mubarak protesters have begun to retreat from Cairo's Tahrir Square after their anti-government rivals charged at them with metal shields, The Jerusalem Post reports.


4:35 p.m. Now openly defying U.S. guidance, how Mubarak chooses to proceed is no longer within Obama's realm of influence, argues National Journal's Michael Hirsh.

 

4:30 p.m. Crowley says the ongoing crisis in Egypt "is very different than situations we confront with other countries... If we need to make adjustments based on what the government does, we will do so." He goes on to cite U.S. relations with North Korea as an example: "In the context of our assistance where we provide food aid to North Korea, if we are concerned that food aid is being diverted from the North Korean people to the government, we are prepared to cut off aid."

 

4:24 p.m. Assistant Secretary of State for Public Affairs P.J. Crowley, fielding questions from a somewhat hostile media forum in Washington, says to those demanding an explicit denunciation of Mubarak: "We are having a full range of conversations... The issue here is not a lack of communication; we are making clear privately and publicly what needs to be done. We are not subscribing what Egypt needs to do. President Mubarak has committed to a transition, but now is the time the government needs to take concrete steps to demonstrate that it is moving down a path of... democratic governance, of governance that responds to the aspirations of the Egyptian people."

Asked if Mubarak feels betrayed by the United States, Crowley says "no." Pressed for more information regarding current Egyptian sentiment toward the United States, he borrows a line from Cool Hand Luke: "Hang on a second... there is no failure to communicate here."

 

4:05 p.m. Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., via Twitter: "Regrettably the time has come 4 Pres. Mubarak 2 step down & relinquish power. It’s in the best interest of Egypt, its people & its military."


3:14 p.m. Egypt's health ministry tells Egypt’s official Mena news agency that 611 people have been injured in Wednesday's violence.

 

3:01 p.m. Joint Chiefs Chairman Adm. Mike Mullen said the "significant challenges" of the last few days showcase the relationship between civilian leadership and military support. "There is no... better example of that right now," he said.

"I appreciate... in a very difficult situation, the strength of that leadership and the conviction of that leadership. And obviously, we are, from a military standpoint, here to support," Mullen said alongside Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton at a Global Chiefs of Mission Conference luncheon today.

"It hasn’t just been a $1.3 billion investment in Egypt over the last 30 years," he continued. "It hasn’t just been dollars, and it hasn’t just been a military investment in their armed services, which have been a critical part.  It has been an investment on the part of the United States that goes back, actually, a long way, even further back than 30 years in terms of the relationship -- the historic relationship we’ve had with a country.  And so this part of it -- to see it gel and to see it focus in this very, very difficult time -- is a wonderful example."

 

2:59 p.m.  Demonstrations in solidarity with Egypt are hitting the West Bank, where around 200 people are demonstrating in Ramallah, tweets activist group RamallahNow. 

 

2:54 p.m.  The takeaway from today’s White House briefing:

The No. 1 message coming out of the White House is that the violence in Egypt must stop. At the same time, the U.S. is putting a lot of pressure on President Hosni Mubarak to begin his transition out of power now -- or as Gibbs said, “now is yesterday.” But they still aren’t taking the step of actually telling him he must leave today -- just that the transition must begin. The White House does see its military-to-military contacts as having helped promote restraint.

As in previous briefings, Gibbs stonewalled on questions about the role of Islamic fundamentalism in the region. He did say that the U.S. would like to maintain a relationship with whatever new government comes into power. But he also called on that hypothetical government to respect treaties that the previous government had affirmed, in a clear allusion to Egypt’s peace treaty with Israel that has helped promote stability in the region for decades. Egypt is “a country that has played an invaluable role in providing stability to a volatile region in the world,” he said.

 

2:50 p.m.  Al Jazeera reports that people are afraid to leave the crowded Tahrir Square because of the danger on surrounding streets.

 

2:45 p.m. Al Jazeera reports gasoline bombs being thrown from rooftops and a stream of ambulances entering the Square to pick up injured people. The military has continued telling people to return to their homes. And newly appointed Vice President Omar Suleiman has also called for the protesters to go home.

 

2:29 p.m. National Journal's Clifford Marks writes that a running survey about "well-being" suggests that non-economic factors may be driving the turmoil in Egypt and Tunisia. The well-being metric in both countries has plummeted in the past few years, according to recent Gallup polling.

The proportion of Egyptians who identified themselves as "thriving" has fallen by more than half, from 25 percent in 2007 to just 11 percent last year. Tunisians reported a similar drop in satisfaction, with the share of those who were "thriving" plunging from 24 percent in 2008 to 14 percent in 2010.

The declines in well-being came despite steady national increases in GDP per capita, which has long been considered a valuable, though imperfect, indicator of happiness.

Over the past five years, per capita income in both Egypt and Tunisia rose by roughly a third. Yet in Tunisia, all income groups reported a decline in well-being since 2008. The same happened in Egypt since 2005, with only the richest 20 percent reporting that their sense of well-being had increased. "Gallup's global wellbeing metrics make clear that leaders cannot assume that the lives of those in their countries would improve in tandem with rising GDP," the firm said in a posting on its website.

The surveys found wide variation in well-being among Middle Eastern nations.  Egypt and Tunisia were both near the bottom, but Morocco, Yemen, Iraq, the Palestinian Territories, and Libya all had fewer than 15 percent of adults who thought of themselves as "thriving." Countries such as Saudi Arabia (43 percent) and Jordan (30 percent) fared better.

Lindsey Boerma and Katy O'Donnell contributed contributed to this article.

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