White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said Wednesday that "a time for a transition [in Egypt] has come, and that time is now." He added: "Now means yesterday."
"It is not September," Gibbs said.
Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak has vowed not to run for re-election in September, but he has not indicated he will step down before that. The Obama administration has stopped short of explicitly calling for Mubarak to resign, though it has.
Gibbs told reporters that when President Obama spoke to his Egyptian counterpart Tuesday, "The message that the president delivered clearly to President Mubarak was that the time for change had come."
Gibbs said Mubarak now has an opportunity to show "exactly who he is" by proceeding with that transition. Pressed by reporters, Gibbs would not clarify whether "transition" meant an immediate Mubarak exit, though his comments marked the strongest signal in that direction thus far out of the White House. He also declined to comment when asked if the administration viewed Mubarak as a dictator.
At one point, speaking about discussions between American and Egyptian officials, Gibbs said: "There are limits to what I can say."
With protests taking a turn toward the violent Wednesday - apparently due in large part to an aggressive offensive by pro-Mubarak protesters - Gibbs told reporters that he did not know if the Egyptian government was behind the attacks.
"If any of the violence is instigated by the government, it should stop immediately," he said. Added Gibbs: "'it is imperative that the violence we are seeing stop."
Protesters and some reporters have suggested that the pro-Mubarak protesters include plainclothes police as well as paid enforcers.
Gibbs said Mr. Obama saw the"outrageous and deplorable." He said the United States was continuing to review whether it will keep providing approximately $1.5 billion in aid each year to Egypt.
"Progress and change must come to Egypt and it must happen quickly," Gibbs said.