US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice voiced Washington's concern Tuesdsay over a crackdown on journalists and dissidents by key Arab ally Egypt, bringing a prickly exchange with Egypt's foreign minister.
The exchange - though polite - reflected underlying tensions over democratic reforms in US and Egyptian relations. Egypt has responded brusquely to past American criticism over human rights violations and pressure to bring greater democracy.
At a press conference alongside Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit that focused on Mideast peace efforts, Rice said she had also raised with him and President Hosni Mubarak the issue of jailed opposition politician Ayman Nour. "We always raise these issues in the spirit of friendship," she said.