The White House said Wednesday that Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak has a chance to show the world "exactly who he is" by bringing desperately needed change to his country now.
Press secretary Robert Gibbs decried the bloody violence in Cairo, where pro-government forces clashed with protesters a day after Mubarak announced he would not seek re-election in September.
"If any of the violence is instigated by the government it should stop immediately," Gibbs said, while declining to speculate whether the government was in fact behind the violence. Protesters contend plainclothes police are among the pro-government attackers.
`'The president found the images outrageous and deplorable," the press secretary said.
Some 600 people were hurt and three were killed according to official reports, after President Mubarak supporters and rivals clashed for long hours in Cairo's main square. However, according to the Lebanese al-Mustaqbal network, at least 30 people died in the violence.
Later, a doctor at an emergency clinic set up at the scene told Reuters more than 1,500 people were injured in the clashes.
'Now means now'
Gibbs said no decision had been made on cutting off the $1.5 billion in annual aid the US provides Egypt but that it was still under review. Gibbs reiterated President Barack Obama's call from Tuesday night that transition in Egypt must begin now - but he didn't explain exactly what that meant or say whether Mubarak should resign immediately.
Mayhem in Egypt (Photo: Reuters)
"Now means now," Gibbs said at the White House briefing.
"The people of Egypt need to see change, the people of Egypt need to see progress," he said.
'Honor past treaties'
Gibbs avoided describing what a future government of Egypt might look like, or whether it was acceptable to the US for Mubarak to preside over the period before the next elections.
He did say that the US expects that whatever government comes into power will respect the treaties entered into by previous Egyptian governments - a clear reference to Egypt's peace treaty with Israel, which has provided an important measure of stability for the region.
Behind the scenes, the White House had attempted to nudge Mubarak to the exits over the past 48 hours, dispatching former US ambassador to Egypt Frank Wisner as a special envoy to deliver a message to him: The US saw Mubarak's tenure at an end, didn't want him to seek re-election and wanted him to prepare an orderly transition to real democracy.
Roee Nahmias contributed to the story
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