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U.S. says Egypt’s crackdown of ‘deep concern’

WASHINGTON — The Obama administration today called Egypt’s crackdown on protesters a “deep concern” and urged Egyptian authorities to allow peaceful demonstrations and restore Internet traffic and social networking sites.

State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley urged Egypt, one of America’s closest Arab allies, to enact reforms. He said Egypt must respect the “fundamental rights” of its people, allow them to communicate, and avoid violence if the country is to thrive.

The White House says the “legitimate grievances” of the Egyptian people must be addressed immediately by their government and violence is not the right response.

Press secretary Robert Gibbs said President Barack Obama has not spoken with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak since he became the target of roiling street protests. Asked why not, Gibbs said that “we’re monitoring a very fluid situation.”

Gibbs said it was time for reform to come to Egypt. He reiterated calls for calm and said that the Pentagon has been in direct contact with the Egyptian military to caution restraint.

The Internet was blocked in Egypt today as protests spread.

Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak imposed a night curfew and signaled he would send the military into 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. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton was expected to address the unfolding developments later Friday.

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.

“Events unfolding in Egypt are of deep concern,” Crowley said. “Fundamental rights must be respected, violence avoided and open communications allowed.”

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