A US official has said beleaguered Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak should stay in office while a handover of power is negotiated.
Egypt's key ally and aid donor had been demanding that regime change should start immediately.
But Frank Wisner, US special envoy to Egypt, said: "We need to get a national consensus around the pre-conditions for the next step forward. The president must stay in office to steer those changes."
One US official declined to associate himself with Wisner's comments, saying the retired US diplomat had undertaken his mission to Cairo as a private citizen and did not speak for the US government.
But Secretary of State Hillary Clinton also spoke of supporting the Egyptian government to ensure a swift and orderly handover of power.
While Mr Mubarak has reshuffled his government, he says he plans to stay as president until September polls, defying protesters who demand he step down immediately.
State television announced that the leadership of the ruling party, including Mr Mubarak's son Gamal, had resigned.
With some protesters insisting they want not just Mubarak but also his allies out straight away, moves to keep the 82-year-old president in office are unlikely to go down well.
An Egyptian army commander was shouted down when he tried to persuade thousands of demonstrators at Tahrir Square to stop a protest that has stalled economic life in the capital.