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Clinton Urges Mubarak Government to Engage Immediately With Protesters

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, January 28, 2011

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, January 28, 2011

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton Friday urged the government of President Hosni Mubarak to end violent tactics against protesters and "engage immediately" with the Egyptian people on reforms. U.S. travelers are being told to avoid Egypt, a major tourist destination.

Clinton's remarks, at a press event with Colombian Vice President Angelino Garzon, differed little in substance from previous U.S. calls for restraint by all sides and responsiveness by Cairo authorities to reform demands.

But, there was clearly more urgency, with television footage from Cairo being broadcast world-wide showing tough tactics by Egyptian security against mostly-youthful, and largely peaceful demonstrators.

"These protests underscore that there are deep grievances within Egyptian society, and the Egyptian government must understand that violence will not make these grievances go away," said Hillary Clinton. "As President Obama said yesterday, reform is absolutely critical to the well-being of Egypt."

The Secretary also called on authorities to reverse what she said were unprecedented steps to cut off communications, which have included curbs on cell phone networks, the Internet and social networking sites.

Although Vice President Joe Biden, in a television interview late Thursday, said he did not think it was time for President Mubarak to step down, Clinton did not directly respond to a similar question posed to her.

She said, instead, that it is "absolutely vital" that the Cairo government embrace reform, not just for its long-term stability but also for the progress and prosperity its people deserve.

“As I've said before and as the President [Obama] has also said, the Egyptian government has a real opportunity, in the face of this very clear demonstration of opposition, to begin a process that will truly respond to the aspirations of the people of Egypt," she said. "We think that moment needs to be seized and we are hoping that it is."

The State Department Friday issued a new travel alert for Egypt, a major U.S. tourist destination, urging American citizens to defer non-essential travel to the country for the time being.

It said while on-going demonstrations have not been directed against Westerners, it said U.S. citizens already in Egypt should avoid them and exercise caution, noting communications disruptions.

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