Image: Dick Cheney
Michael Moriatis  /  The News-Press via AP
Former Vice President Dick Cheney speaks to guests at the Reagan Ranch Center on Saturday in Santa Barbara, Calif.
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updated 2/6/2011 1:49:07 AM ET 2011-02-06T06:49:07

Former Vice President Dick Cheney on Saturday called Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak a good friend and U.S. ally, and he urged the Obama administration to move cautiously as turmoil continued to shake that nation's government.

Cheney's comments came a day after President Barack Obama pressed Mubarak to consider his legacy and exit office in a way that would give his country the best chance for peace and democracy.

Cheney said the U.S. should take measured steps in public, and suggested that too much pressure could backfire.

"There is a reason why a lot of diplomacy is conducted in secret. There are good reasons for there to be confidentiality in some of those communications. And I think President Mubarak needs to be treated as he deserved over the years, because he has been a good friend," Cheney said at an event commemorating the centennial of President Ronald Reagan's birth.

Cheney noted it can be difficult for some foreign leaders to act on U.S. advice "in a visible way" without appearing compromised in their own countries.

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"The bottom line is, in the end, whatever comes next in Egypt is going to be determined by the people of Egypt," Cheney added.

Cheney, looking markedly thinner than during his days in Washington and sitting throughout his remarks, said Mubarak helped the U.S. get military aircraft into the region in the 1991 Gulf War, and committed troops to fight alongside U.S. forces in the liberation of Kuwait.

"He's been a good man, a good friend and ally to the United States," Cheney said. "We need to remember that."

As huge protests continued Friday, Obama said discussions have begun in Egypt on a turnover of the government, and he called for a "transition period that begins now."

"We want to see this moment of turmoil turned into a moment of opportunity," Obama said in Washington. He did not explicitly call for Mubarak to step down immediately, but U.S. officials said the administration has made a judgment that Mubarak has to go soon if the crisis is to end peacefully.

Asked about a possible outcome in Egypt, Cheney said, "I don't know."

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"There comes a time for everybody when it's time to hang it up and move on," he said, but added, "That's a decision only the Egyptians can make."

Saturday's event was sponsored by the Young America's Foundation, which was founded to promote conservative ideas on college campuses and purchased Reagan's former ranch in 1998.
Sarah Palin addressed the group Friday.

Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Video: High-stakes gamesmanship keeps Egypt on edge

  1. Closed captioning of: High-stakes gamesmanship keeps Egypt on edge

    >> good evening from jordon. the stand off in neighboring egypt that has raised the political bloodressure across the region is showing signs tonight of becoming annen durns contest between mubarak and the demonstrators. although calm as the senior leadership in the rules party including mubarak 's son resigned. it means the younger mubarak wildly unpopular with critics will n be taking his dad's place. many suggesting it may be a token offering to try and outlast the protesters who are against him. our correspondent, richard engel reporting.

    >> reporter: good evening. there is still a lot of mistrust here. serious ne gaucgotiations are still underway to guarantee that power is transferred away from the president and his son. protesters are still camped o here. shouting calls for more democrac and president mubarak to leave. the protesters remain nervous, that they will be attacked. today, they resisted when the military tried to remove barricades they set up. th army wants to reopen the square to traffic. for 12 days , the government has struggled to deal with the protesters. first it fought them with police, water c oxcanons and tear gauze, but the ptests got bigger. then it sent goon squads to attack although the government denies it was responsible. the protesters fought back and showed off the wounded in a victory parade . now the government is giving the demonstrators most of what they want. and waiting until others turn on the protesters stagnating the economy. the government is tryin to slow this down by promisi reforms and making some changes to convince the people they can't get what they wan without a full revolution. the president oba's son has been removed from the party. but now it is one of many. president wmubarak has said he will step down in sex monix months and not run again. and establish term limits he has vowed to investite fraud. but the protesters want him to leave the country in exile. mubarak president for three decades said he will never go like that. for the first time we are hearing a very different tone. these carpenters and blacksmiths told me they want reform and demoacy, but want to go back to work. hes making changes and leaving in six monthsanyway. our people are suffering the longer the protesters destroy the country. they want evething to change at once even god made the world in seven days they wanto do it in one said another. we have to respect the presidency.

    >> for the protesters time is the enemy. they have got to keep the media spotlight on themselves and have got to keep the regime's feet to the fire. the longer that things go on the harder it will be to maintain opinion and international internags ternational focus on them.

    >> reporter: arab states are fearing if they goes they will be next. and protests confined to central cair will spread across the middle east . egypt's vice president and former intelligence chief is seen by many here as the person most likely to guide this transition to power.

    >> and richard, i get the sense tonight, not only were these concessions not welcome, but almost had the opposite effect. are they going t crank it up more.

    >> reporter: t protesters in the square are really the wild card . many of the die-hards in the square and there are many of them say they will accept nothing less than president mubarak leave the country and they are not going to change that demand. they are calling for major demonstrations all week long starting tomorrow. this was supposed to be called the week of resilience.

    >> richard engel in cairo for

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