Egyptian Revolt Becomes Pressing Issue For U.S.

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The spreading street revolt in Egypt quickly became the prime concern of the White House on Friday, crowding out other issues and pinning the president between support for the protesters and the longstanding U.S. commitment to the current regime.

MICHELE NORRIS, host:

The Obama Administration scrambled to stay on top of today's fast-paced events in Egypt. As NPR's Scott Horsley reports, the White House is wary of pushing too far too fast against a key ally.

SCOTT HORSLEY: President Obama's been getting updates on the situation in Egypt throughout the day. His daily security briefing, which usually covers hotspots around the world, was devoted entirely to the protests and the Egyptian government's crackdown.

Later, White House deputies gathered in the Situation Room, where they heard directly from the U.S. ambassador in Cairo. Here's White House spokesman Robert Gibbs.

Mr. ROBERT GIBBS (White House Spokesman): We're monitoring a very fluid situation. We are deeply concerned about the images and the events that we see in Egypt today. The security personnel in Egypt need to refrain from violence. Protestors should refrain from violence, as well.

HORSLEY: So far, Gibbs says, President Obama has not spoken directly to Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak. But the two governments are in regular contact.

The administration has quietly urged Mubarak in the past to address the concerns reflected in today's protests, including demands for free and fair elections and an end to decades of emergency law.

The U.S. also called on the Egyptian government to restore Internet, cell phone, and social media access that was cut off in anticipation of today's protests.

Gibbs warned that if the violent crackdown continues, the U.S. government will rethink the billion-and-a-half dollars in foreign aid it sends to Egypt each year.

Mr. GIBBS: Let's be clear: The people of Egypt are watching the government's actions. They have for quite some time, and their grievances have reached a boiling point.

HORSLEY: The administration is also cautioning American citizens to avoid unnecessary travel to Egypt and taking steps to secure the U.S. embassy there and Americans who are already in the country.

Scott Horsley, NPR News, the White House.

BLOCK: And we have an update now. At this moment, Egyptian President Hozni Mubarak is addressing the Egyptian people on state television. We'll bring you updates throughout the show on ALL THINGS CONSIDERED.

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