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U.S. Traces Egypt Attacks to Groups Tied to Government

Feb. 3 (Bloomberg) -- The U.S. has evidence that “elements close to” Egypt’s government or ruling party played a role in violent counterdemonstrations in Cairo, State Department spokesman Philip J. Crowley said today.

“We have traced it to elements close to the government, or the ruling party,” Crowley told reporters in Washington. “I don’t know that we have a sense how far up the chain it went.”

Violent attacks have disrupted once peaceful protests by Egyptians who want President Hosni Mubarak to end his 30-year rule. Mubarak rejected those calls in an interview with ABC News today, saying there would be “chaos” if he did so. Shortly afterward, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton repeated international calls for Egypt’s transition process to begin “immediately.”

As further proof that groups close to the government are inciting violence, Crowley cited a mass mobile-phone text message that Vodafone Group Plc was ordered to send by the Egyptian government, urging people to confront “traitors and criminals” as demonstrators demanded Mubarak’s ouster.

“Knowing that those messages were sent out yesterday gives us some strong indication that this was an orchestrated effort by elements close to the government,” Crowley said. He said that the U.S. also has “strong indications” that the violence that erupted yesterday “was an organized effort at intimidation.”

Not ‘Random Events’

“These do not seem to be random events,” Crowley told reporters at the State Department in Washington.

Crowley also said Egypt’s plans for a transition must move more quickly. Egyptian Vice President Omar Suleiman’s proposals to talk to opposition groups are “not broad enough, they’re not credible enough,” Crowley said. “Those talks need to go farther, faster,” he said.

As Crowley noted the apparent “effort to disrupt the ability of journalists to cover today’s events,” he said that the U.S. is concerned about the prospects of larger protests and an escalation of violence in Egypt tomorrow, when Friday prayers will draw large numbers of people out to mosques and into the streets.

“We’re bracing for a significant increase in the number of demonstrators on the streets,” he said. There is the “real prospect of a real confrontation,” he said.

To contact the reporter on this story: Nicole Gaouette in Washington at ngaouette@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Mark Silva at msilva34@bloomberg.net

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