US calls on Egypt to respect 'fundamental rights' of citizens

A State Department official said the police action against protesters was of "deep concern" to the United States, as Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak signalled that the military would be deployed to quell demonstrations after his ruling party's headquarters were torched.

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WASHINGTON // The United States on Friday called a security crackdown in Egypt a "deep concern" and urged Egyptian authorities to enact reforms and allow peaceful protests.

State Department spokesman PJ Crowley said Egypt, one of America's closest Arab allies, must respect the "fundamental rights" of its people, allow them to communicate and avoid violence if they want their country to thrive.

Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak imposed a night curfew and signaled he would send the military out in the streets for the first time to quell swelling street protests that pose an unprecedented challenge to his regime.

Egyptian protesters on Friday torched the headquarters of the ruling National Democratic Party in Cairo, state television reported, as nationwide anti-government protests raged into a fourth day. Television footage showed the NDP building, which overlooks the Nile in central Cairo, engulfed in flames.

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

"Reform is vital to Egypt's long-term well-being," he said. "The Egyptian government should view its people as a partner and not as a threat."

Crowley's comments were posted on the micro-blog Twitter, which along with other social media sites and the Internet itself has been blocked by Egyptian authorities as the protests grow. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton was expected to address the rapidly unfolding developments later Friday.

The White House said President Barack Obama had several meetings with aides Friday about the security situation in Egypt and related demonstrations and unrest in other Arab nations.