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EGYPT: U.S., Egyptian officials trade accusations over Cairo unrest

February 3, 2011 | 11:31 am

U.S. and Egyptian officials traded accusations Thursday about exploiting the unrest that has gripped Egypt for the past 10 days, with Egypt's vice president accusing Washington of "interference" in the nation's internal affairs and Obama administration officials suggesting the Cairo regime was imperiling foreign journalists.

The exchange reflected concerns on both sides about the tense standoff that has evolved between opponents of Egypt's long-ruling President Hosni Mubarak and supporters of the regime, who have been blamed for provoking violent clashes with anti-government demonstrators over the past two days.

In an interview carried on state-run television, Vice President Omar Suleiman accused the United States of "unacceptable" efforts to influence the political confrontation in Egypt. 

"Foreign countries have intervened through press declarations and statements," Suleiman said, making clear he was referring to comments by White House and State Department spokesmen. "This was very strange, given the friendly relations between us and them."

Suleiman said the foreign demands for immediate leadership change had been rejected, and that while U.S. advice to the Egyptian government was welcome, its dictates were not.

In Washington, a State Department spokesman told journalists the Mubarak government was behind a "concerted campaign" against foreign journalists trying to cover the unrest in Egypt. Dozens of reporters and camera crews have been roughed up by pro-Mubarak forces or detained by security agents.

White House spokesman Robert Gibbs described the abuse of foreign media representatives as “systematic targeting,” and warned that the world was watching how the Mubarak government treated peaceful protesters and those covering the demonstrations.


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-- Carol J. Williams