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U.S. dispatches former Egypt envoy to Cairo

By the CNN Wire Staff
A U.S. State Department official said Frank Wisner "knows some of the key players within the Egyptian government."
A U.S. State Department official said Frank Wisner "knows some of the key players within the Egyptian government."
  • Frank Wisner is a former U.S. ambassador to Egypt
  • He is meeting with Egyptian officials
  • Clinton regards the situation as "complex, very difficult"

Washington (CNN) -- The Obama administration has sent a former U.S. ambassador to Egypt to meet with officials there, a government official said Tuesday.

National Security Council spokesman Tommy Vietor said the United States asked Frank Wisner to go to Cairo.

"As someone with deep experience in the region, he is meeting with Egyptian officials and providing his assessment," Vietor said.

When asked Monday whether Wisner was a formal envoy, State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley noted that "he's a private citizen" but "a retired diplomat."

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Wisner "knows some of the key players within the Egyptian government," Crowley said, and officials thought it was "useful" for the former ambassador to interact with people within Egyptian society.

Crowley said Wisner arrived in Cairo Monday.

"We'll look forward to hearing his perspective," he told reporters at the daily briefing.

"This is an opportunity both for Ambassador Wisner, who has a history with some of these key figures, you know, to meet with them and reinforce what the president has said, what the secretary (Clinton) has said, at the same time has the opportunity to gain a perspective on what they're thinking and what their ideas are in terms of ... the process that we've clearly called for."

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton outlined the administration's stance in separate interviews Sunday with five television networks, saying the "complex, very difficult" situation in Egypt requires careful progress toward a peaceful transition to democracy rather than any sudden or violent change that could undermine the aspirations of the protesters.

"There's no easy answer," Clinton said on CNN's "State of the Union." "And, clearly, increasing chaos or even violence in the streets, prison breaks, which we've had reports about -- that is not the way to go.

"We want to see this peaceful uprising on the part of the Egyptian people to demand their rights to be responded to in a very clear, unambiguous way by the government, and then a process of national dialogue that will lead to the changes that the Egyptian people seek and that they deserve," she said.

On Monday, White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said Egypt's government should engage in "meaningful negotiations with a broad section of civil society, including opposition groups," and hold "free and fair elections" in September.

The transition called for by Clinton "means change, and what we've advocated from the very beginning is that the way Egypt looks and operates must change," Gibbs told reporters.

At the same time, he said it is not the place of the United States to support or oppose the possible ouster of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak.

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