Clinton, Ban condemn continued violence in Egypt

US Secretary of State says she's "deeply concerned"; UN secretary-general calls for Egypt's gov't to uphold human rights.

Egyptian soldiers beat a protester in Tahrir 311 (R) (photo credit: REUTERS/Stringer)
Egyptian soldiers beat a protester in Tahrir 311 (R)
(photo credit: REUTERS/Stringer)
Both US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon condemned Sunday excessive use of force by Egypt's security forces after three days of battles with protesters demanding an end to military rule imposed since Hosni Mubarak was toppled in February.
"I am deeply concerned about the continuing reports of violence in Egypt. I urge Egyptian security forces to respect and protect the universal rights of all Egyptians, including the rights to peaceful free expression and assembly," Clinton said in a statement.
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Earlier, Ban's office release a statement saying that the UN Secretary-General is, "highly alarmed by the excessive use of force employed by the security forces against protesters, and calls for the transitional authorities to act with restraint and uphold human rights, including the right to peaceful protest."
Soldiers baton-charged demonstrators in Cairo's Tahrir Square on Saturday a day after street clashes killed eight people and wounded more than 300.
Clinton also called on Egyptian authorities to hold accountable those, including security forces, who violate the rights of demonstrators.
"Those who are protesting should do so peacefully and refrain from acts of violence. Our thoughts are with the families of those who have been killed or injured," Clinton said.
Cairo's Tahrir square - hub of the uprising that ousted Mubarak - has again been convulsed by violence as protesters demand the generals who took charge in February quit power. At least 10 people have died in the past three days.
"Down with Tantawi," about 1,000 protesters chanted late on Sunday, referring to Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi who heads the army council and who was Mubarak's defense minister.
Some youths had earlier hurled rocks and petrol bombs at lines of security forces. Riot police appeared to have moved to the front line instead of soldiers.
Troops in riot gear have been filmed in recent days beating protesters with long sticks even after they had fallen to the ground. A Reuters picture showed two soldiers dragging a woman lying on the ground by her shirt, exposing her underwear.
The violence has overshadowed a staggered parliamentary election, the first free vote most Egyptians can remember, that is set to give Islamists the biggest bloc.
Some Egyptians are enraged by the army's behavior. Others want to focus on voting, not street protests.
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The ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces will retain power even after the lower house vote is completed in January, but has pledged to hand over to an elected president by July.
Hundreds of protesters were in Tahrir on Sunday, although traffic was flowing through the square coming from streets not blocked and away from the violence. Most of the clashes have been in streets leading off the square.
Bouts of violence
One group of activists approached those hurling stones to urge them to stop, but they refused, citing the deaths of 10 people as a reason not to "negotiate." Other activists handed over to the army people they said were making petrol bombs.
A hard core of activists have camped in Tahrir since a protest against army rule on Nov. 18 that was sparked by the army-backed cabinet's proposals to permanently shield the military from civilian oversight in the new constitution.
Bouts of violence since then, including a flare-up last month that killed 42 people, have deepened frustrations of many other Egyptians, who want an end to protests. They see the military as the only force capable of restoring stability.
"There are people who wait for any problem and seek to amplify it ... The clashes won't stop. There are street children who found shelter in Tahrir," said Ali el-Nubi, a postal worker, adding the army should have managed the transition better.
Reuters television footage showed one soldier in a line of charging troops firing a shot at fleeing protesters on Saturday, though it was not clear whether he was using live rounds.
The army said it does not use live ammunition. It has also said troops had tackled only "thugs," not protesters.
A building near Tahrir with historic archives was gutted on Saturday by a fire. Some people tried to gather up any remaining, partially charred documents to save them.
The Health Ministry said 10 people had been killed in the violence since Friday and 505 were wounded, of which 384 had been taken to hospital. Most of the deaths happened on Friday or early Saturday. No deaths were reported on Sunday.
The latest bloodshed began after the second round of voting last week for parliament's lower house. The staggered election began on Nov. 28 and will end with a run-off vote on Jan. 11.
The Muslim Brotherhood and other Islamist parties repressed in the 30-year Mubarak era have emerged as strong front-runners.