Egyptian officials continued to put pressure on demonstrators, raising alarm about the economic toll the country had suffered as a result of the standoff, and offering further concessions by removing Mr. Mubarak’s son Gamal and other officials from their posts in the ruling party.
Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, speaking to a security conference in Munich, said it was important to support Mr. Suleiman, a pillar of the Egyptian establishment and Mr. Mubarak’s longtime confidante, as he seeks to defuse street protests. Mr. Suleiman has promised repeatedly to reach out to opposition groups, including the Muslim Brotherhood, but there were few indications that any genuine dialogue with opposition leaders had begun.
Ms. Clinton’s message, echoed by Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany and Prime Minister David Cameron of Britain, was a notable shift in tone from the past week, when President Obama, faced with violent clashes in Cairo, demanded that Mr. Mubarak make swift, bold changes. The change appears to reflect worries that rapid change in Egypt could destabilize the country and the region.
“That takes some time,” Mrs. Clinton said. “There are certain things that have to be done in order to prepare.”
But Mohamed ElBaradei, the Nobel laureate who has been chosen to negotiate on behalf of the protesters and other opposition groups, said the American-backed transition plan was a nonstarter. “I do not think it’s adequate,” he said in an interview. “I’m not talking about myself. It’s not adequate for the people.
“Mubarak needs to go,” he said. “It has become an emotional issue. They need to see his back, there’s no question about it.”
There were tens of thousands of protesters in Tahrir Square on Saturday as a light rain fell, and in interviews, some said they would not be dislodged until their demands were met.
Ibrahim Mustafa, 42, waiting to enter Tahrir Square in the morning, as the military tightened restrictions said: “President Obama better put pressure on Mubarak to leave or things are going to get a lot worse here. He needs to get the army to force him out of here. America is going to create another Iran here. America doesn’t understand. The people know its supporting an illegitimate regime.”
Human rights groups said that security officials under Mr. Suleiman, even as he talks about leading a transition, are continuing to abduct and detain without charges people it considers a political threat.
The most notable example is the disappearance of Wael Ghonim, a Google executive and leader of the young Internet activists who started the revolt. Believed by many to be the anonymous host of the Facebook page that first called for the Jan. 25 protest and this kicked off the Egyptian uprising, he wrote that day on his Twitter account: “We got brutally beaten up by police people,” and later, “Sleeping on the streets of Cairo, trying to feel the pain of millions of my fellow Egyptians.”
“Very worried as it seems that government is planning a war crime tomorrow against people,” he wrote two days later. “We are all ready to die.” He disappeared soon after.
At least seven other online activists associated with the April 6th movement remain missing after being abducted a few days ago at a cafe after leaving a meeting at the home of Mr. ElBaradei.
Even so, the United States appears to be easing its pressure for rapid change. Mrs. Clinton suggested that the United States was not insisting on the immediate departure of Mr. Mubarak, and that such an abrupt shift of power may not be necessary or prudent. She said Mr. Mubarak, having taken himself and Gamal out of the September elections, was already effectively sidelined. She emphasized the need for Egypt to reform its constitution to make a vote credible.
“That is what the government has said it is trying to do,” she said. “That is what we are supporting, and hope to see it move as orderly but as expeditiously, as possible, under the circumstances.”
Mrs. Clinton expressed fears about deteriorating security inside Egypt, noting the explosion at a gas pipeline in the Sinai Peninsula, and uncorroborated media reports of an earlier assassination attempt on Mr. Suleiman.
The report was mentioned at the conference by Wolfgang Ischinger, a retired German diplomat who is the conference chairman, just as Mrs. Clinton began taking questions at the gathering of heads of state, foreign ministers, and legislators from the United States, Europe, and other countries.