Kissinger Says Mubarak Exit a `Question of Months,' Urges Muted U.S. Reply

Henry Kissinger, a former U.S. secretary of state and presidential adviser, said Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak is certain to resign within “months at most” as the Arab world’s most populous country braces for “a period of great uncertainty.”

Kissinger said on Bloomberg Television's "In the Loop with Betty Liu" that the U.S. should say little publicly about Egypt during this transition. The U.S. does not want to be perceived as trying to impose a government on the Egyptian people, he said.

“It’s only a question of months at most -- that Mubarak will resign,” Kissinger said. He described the president’s removal as “the first scene of the first act” in Egypt’s political transformation.

“We are going to go through a period of great uncertainty and a lot of maneuvering once the lid is off,” said Kissinger, now chairman of Kissinger Associates Inc.

Mohamed ElBaradei, a leader of the Egyptian opposition and a Nobel Peace Prize winner, is likely only a transitional figure because he lacks a political base, Kissinger said.

“I think almost certainly he will be a temporary figure,” he said. “In order to govern, you have to represent some sort of forces, and I don’t know what forces ElBaradei represents.”

Omar Suleiman, a former Army general and Mubarak’s newly appointed vice president, is “highly intelligent and quite sophisticated,” Kissinger said. While stopping short of calling Suleiman a friend of the United States, Kissinger said he “has been very cooperative.”

Middle Ground

The Obama administration has tried to walk a middle ground in response to the popular Egyptian uprising, balancing the U.S.’s historic support for Mubarak as a trusted ally against the need to embrace the American values of democracy and free elections.

“So far, we have been acting correctly,” Kissinger said of the administration’s response. “We are playing catch-up, but so is everybody else.”

He repeatedly cautioned against any U.S. attempt to assert itself forcefully into the debate over Egypt’s future government.

“I would talk as little publicly as possible because we don’t really know what’s going on,” he said.

“I think we should stay out of the dispute because we don’t want to look like we are imposing a government,” he said later.

To contact the reporter on this story: David Lerman in Washington at Dlerman1@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Mark Silva at msilva34@bloomberg.net.

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