US alarmed by violence in Egypt
Washington - The Obama administration pressed its concerns on Wednesday with Egyptian officials over the continuing violence and abuse of female demonstrators in Egypt.
The State Department said Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton had spoken by phone a day earlier to Egyptian Prime Minister Kamal el-Ganzouri to register deep US unease about the situation, particularly well-documented attacks on women participating in anti-military protests by security forces.
The conversation came after Clinton earlier this week bluntly called the treatment of the women a "disgrace" that dishonoured this year's revolution that ended decades of repressive rule.
"It was a very productive call, all focused in the right direction," State Department spokesperson Victoria Nuland said of the exchange between Clinton and Ganzouri.
'Inclusive democratic process'
"She, obviously, said that she had been greatly concerned, and particularly alarmed about the horrible images. And he was very clear that the Egyptian authorities want to see their security forces operate within the rule of law."
As the elections continue, Clinton told Ganzouri that the US wanted to see a "genuine inclusive democratic process" that respects the rights of all Egyptians, including women and minorities.
The attacks on the women came in fierce clashes beginning last week as troops broke up protests by activists demanding the immediate end to the rule of the military, which took power after the February 11 fall of Hosni Mubarak.
The clashes saw military police chasing young men and women through Tahrir Square and nearby streets, beating them with clubs and sticks. The crackdown has killed 14 protesters, mostly from gunshots.
In a speech on Monday, Clinton decried the abuse, saying: "This systematic degradation of Egyptian women dishonours the revolution, disgraces the state and its uniform, and is not worthy of a great people," she said.
Her comments were denounced as interference by some Egyptian officials, but Nuland rejected the characterisation.
"People around the world will hear the United States speak out in defence of our values and in defence of our interests," Nuland said. "The secretary of state is not shy on those subjects. We are going to speak out for the human rights of people around the world. We do not consider that interference."
On Tuesday, some 10 000 women marched in central Cairo, demanding the military step down and expressing their anger over the abuse of female protesters by troops during the crackdown.
The military issued a statement expressing its regret but did not apologise for the brutality, which included pulling women by their hair, beating them with truncheons and stomping on them as they lay on the ground.
The image of one woman - stripped half naked by the troops, kicked and stomped on - has particularly enraged women and drawn a sharp rebuke from the United States and the United Nations.
Nuland said the US was "gratified to see (the Egyptian military) recognise that these issues need to be addressed".