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Published February 02, 2011, 12:23 PM

U.S. Condemns Violence in Egypt, Chides Government

The United States criticized the government of President Hosni Mubarak and condemned violence in Egypt's capital as clashes between protesters and pro-government supporters demonstrated there would be no easy resolution to the unrest destabilizing America's closest ally in the Arab world.

By: Associated Press,

WASHINGTON (AP) — The United States criticized the government of President Hosni Mubarak and condemned violence in Egypt's capital as clashes between protesters and pro-government supporters demonstrated there would be no easy resolution to the unrest destabilizing America's closest ally in the Arab world.

A day after President Barack Obama pressed Mubarak to loosen his grip on power immediately, White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said the U.S. "deplores and condemns the violence that is taking place in Egypt."

"We are deeply concerned about attacks on the media and peaceful demonstrators," he added in a statement. "We repeat our strong call for restraint."

State Department spokesman Philip J. Crowley called the attacks "a direct threat to the aspirations of the Egyptian people."

"The use of violence to intimidate the Egyptian people must stop," Crowley said.

Their comments came after the protests in Egypt's capital took a dangerous turn when several thousand Mubarak supporters, including some riding horses and camels and wielding whips, attacked anti-government protesters. In scenes of uncontrolled violence, some of the assailants were dragged to the ground by demonstrators and beaten bloody while the two sides rained stones and bottles down on each other.

The strife in Egypt was occurring a day after Obama prodded Mubarak to quickly loosen his grip on power, sternly telling the world that the longtime leader's transition from the presidency "must begin now."

Mubarak said Tuesday he would not seek re-election in balloting set for September. Yet he seemed determined to the person shepherding the political changeover from his authoritarian 30-year reign to an uncertain future.

The half-concession was angrily rejected by throngs of protesters in Cairo who say they are fed up with poverty and corruption and want him to step down immediately.

It also did not appear to satisfy Obama. After days of scrambling in the White House over how to react to the enormous and unanticipated protest movement, the president unmistakably sided with the demonstrators, even if he stopped short of demanding Mubarak's immediate resignation.

Behind the scenes, the White House had attempted to nudge Mubarak to the exits over the past 48 hours, dispatching former U.S. ambassador to Egypt Frank Wisner as a special envoy to deliver a message to him: The U.S. saw Mubarak's tenure at an end, didn't want him to seek re-election and wanted him to prepare an orderly transition to real democracy.

Keeping abreast of the situation, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Mike Mullen spoke by phone Wednesday morning with his Egyptian counterpart, Lt. Gen. Sami Anan — their second conversation since Anan cut short a U.S. visit Friday to return to Egypt.

The general gave Mullen an update on developments, a statement said. Mullen expressed confidence in the Egyptian military's ability to ensure security in the country and around the Suez Canal.

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