U.S. President Barack Obama has expressed concern over violent protests in Egypt and has called for restraint ahead of expected demonstrations on June 30.
Speaking in the South African capital, Pretoria, Obama expressed dismay over clashes on June 28 in Alexandria and Port Said that left three people dead, including a young American man who was stabbed to death.
He called on both supporters and critics of Egypt's Islamist-backed president, Muhammad Morsi, to put their differences aside and engage in a constructive dialogue, saying neither side was benefitting from the "current stalemate."
The deaths were reported to have occurred during clashes between supporters and opponents of Morsi.
Arson attacks on offices of the Muslim Brotherhood, the party behind the president, were reported in Alexandria and elsewhere.
In the capital, Cairo, tens of thousands of people took part in rival demonstrations in support of and against the president.
The United States has announced the evacuation of nonessential U.S. Embassy staff and warned Americans against travel to Egypt ahead of opposition rallies planned for June 30 to mark the first anniversary of Morsi's inauguration.
Reports spoke of crowds of departing passengers at Cairo’s international airport. Flights to Europe, the United States, and the Persian Gulf were reported fully booked.
For Or Against Democracy?
The Muslim Brotherhood and other supporters of the president have sought to portray the opposition as trying to use undemocratic means to reverse the results of democratic processes.
Morsi this week delivered a speech defending his first year in office. He called on opponents to refrain from provocations and to join a new dialogue.
The opposition has largely rejected the president’s entreaties, instead repeating demands for new elections.
The protesters accuse Morsi of failing to fulfill the democratic goals of the revolution that forced longtime ruler Hosni Mubarak out of power in early 2011, and say he has surrendered Egypt’s development to the Muslim Brotherhood, which pursues an Islamist agenda.
They also blame the president for Egypt’s worsening economy and living conditions for ordinary people.
The United States -- which provides billions of dollars in annual aid to Egypt -- the European Union, and the United Nations have called on all Egyptian parties to exercise restraint and step back from confrontation.
With reporting by Reuters, AP, dpa, and AFP