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Friday, January 28, 2011

U.S. Shifts Tone on Egypt

WASHINGTON—With events moving rapidly in Egypt, the Obama administration sharply shifted its tone Friday, expressing "deep concern" over "unfolding" actions and urging "open communications" after Egyptian President Hsni Mubarak shut down Internet and cell services in the world's largest Arab country.

State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley took to the social-networking site Twitter to say, "Events unfolding in Egypt are of deep concern. Fundamental rights must be respected, violence avoided and open communications allowed."

That message was a change from Thursday's calls for restraint, which were accompanied by mild expressions of support for Mr. Mubarak.

On PBS Thursday night, Vice President Joe Biden said, "Mubarak has been an ally of ours in a number of things. And he's been very responsible on, relative to geopolitical interest in the region, the Middle East peace efforts; the actions Egypt has taken relative to normalizing relationship with—with Israel. …I would not refer to him as a dictator."

Those comments garnered criticism Friday as police and armored vehicles took to the streets of Cairo with water cannons, tear gas, and in some cases, live fire to suppress the rapidly spreading protests.


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