In today's briefing, White House press secretary Robert Gibbs reiterated the same stance on Egypt that the administration has taken for days, but he did address the role of the Muslim Brotherhood in the conflict for the first time.
Gibbs said the White House has not been in touch with the outlawed group, and he expressed the disagreements the administration has with them, but he seemed to acknowledge that a government that includes the Muslim Brotherhood may be the inevitable reality in the country.
“We have said in other countries in the world that you have responsibilities if you become part of the government to adhere to agreements that that government has laid down, to adhere to the constitution, to adhere to nonviolence,” Gibbs said.
He also addressed the controversy that has surrounded former ambassador Frank Wisner’s assertion at the Munich Security Conference on Saturday that Mubarak must remain in power. Although the State Department sent Wisner to Egypt to deliver a message to Mubarak on behalf of the U.S. government, the former ambassador’s remarks were at odds with the position the administration has taken that Mubarak must begin a transition process immediately.
“Former Ambassador Wisner is not an employee of the government. He was, based on his broad experience… asked by the State Department… to travel to Cairo and have a specific conversation with President Mubarak. He did, and reported that back to us. His views on who should or shouldn’t be the head of Egypt don’t represent the views of our administration. The view of our administration is that that decision should be made by Egypt,” Gibbs said.
Asked about the possible economic repercussions of the revolution in Egypt, Gibbs said the U.S. is continuing to monitor the situation around the Suez Canal, which is an important point of transfer for goods through the region. Ensuring the availability of that passage has been a frequent topic of discussion between the White House and other world leaders, he said.