Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton is appealing for Egyptian authorities to respect the rights of their citizens amid a crackdown on swelling anti-government protests and heed demands for political and economic reform.
Speaking on Friday as street demonstrations rocked Egypt's capital despite a curfew, Clinton urged calm on both sides and said the government must investigate and prosecute any allegations of brutality by security forces against protesters. She also called on Egypt to restore access to the Internet and social media sites that have been blocked.
Increasing the pressure on Egypt's leaders, White House spokesman Robert Gibbs suggested that the United States may reduce a $1.5 billion program of foreign aid depending on President Hosni Mubarak's response to the swelling street protests across the country.
Clinton's and Gibbs' comments to reporters came as the Obama administration has stepped up pressure on its longtime ally Egypt to listen to voices of discontent.
Asked about Mohamed ElBaradei, a leading opposition figure who has been placed under house arrest, Gibbs said, "This is an individual who is a Nobel laureate and has worked with Obama. These are the type of actions that the government has a responsibility to change."
Asked whether the U.S would prefer a different, more tolerant government in Egypt, Gibbs said, "I don't want to project into the future. I don't think that would be a wise use of my time. The government of Egypt is an issue for the people of Egypt."
Gibbs suggested contingency plans had been made for the evacuation of the U.S. Embassy in Cairo, should that become necessary.
State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley said Egypt, one of America's closest Arab allies, must respect the fundamental rights of its people, allow them to communicate, and avoid violence if the country is to thrive.
Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak imposed a night curfew and signaled he would send the military out in the streets for the first time to quell swelling protests that pose an unprecedented challenge to his regime.
"Reform is vital to Egypt's long-term well-being," Crowley said. "The Egyptian government should view its people as a partner and not as a threat."
Crowley's comments were posted on Twitter, which along with other social media sites and the Internet itself has been blocked by Egyptian authorities as the protests grow.
The White House said President Barack Obama had several meetings with aides Friday about the situation in Egypt and related demonstrations and unrest in other Arab nations.
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