US issues travel warning to Egypt as Obama urges Morsi to be 'constructive'

US issues travel warning to Egypt as Obama urges Morsi to be 'constructive'

CAIRO - Agence France-Presse
US issues travel warning to Egypt as Obama urges Morsi to be constructive

Protesters gathered in Cairo's iconic Tahrir Square, chanting anti-President Mohamed Morsi slogans on June 28. REUTERS photo

Washington warned against travel to Egypt after an American was among three people killed during rival demonstrations for and against President Mohamed Morsi ahead of tomorrow's anniversary of his turbulent maiden year in office. The U.S. President Barack Obama also expressed concern for the situation, calling on the Egyptian leader to be more "constructive" in moving the country forward.

"We are all looking at the situation there with concern," Obama said in South Africa June 29, adding that the U.S. government had taken steps to ensure the safety of its embassy, consulates and diplomats in Egypt.

"We would urge all parties to make sure they are not engaging in violence and that police and military are showing appropriate restraint," said Obama.

The U.S. leader also asked Islamist president Morsi to have a more "constructive conversation" to improve the political situation in the country.

Morsi's opponents have called nationwide protests for June 30 to demand that he step down, sparking counter-demonstrations by the Muslim Brotherhood and its Islamist allies that have triggered often bloody clashes.

The US citizen was killed as he took photographs of a demonstration in the Mediterranean coastal city of Alexandria, Egyptian officials said.

"We can confirm that a U.S. citizen was killed in Alexandria, Egypt," State Department spokesman Patrick Ventrell said in a statement.

A statement posted on the website of Kenyon College in Ohio, said U.S. embassy officials had identified him as one of their students, Andrew Pochter, 21, from Maryland. He had been working as an intern at AMIDEAST, an American non-profit organisation, the statement added.

The U.S. State Department also authorised the departure of non-essential embassy staff for fear of further deadly violence in the face of the bitter antagonism between Morsi's supporters and the mainly secular opposition.


Morsi's supporters also gathered in
numbers, holding his posters and
waving national flags June 29. AP 

Another man was killed earlier during the clashes in Alexandria. In the canal city of Port Said, an Egyptian journalist was killed and several other people injured after someone threw a small explosive device at anti-Morsi protesters, a security official and witnesses said.

Morsi, has been accused by opponents of failing the 2011 revolution that brought him to power and of ignoring nearly half of the electorate of around 50 million who did not vote for him last year.

US, Amnesty call for restraint

"We urge all parties to refrain from violence and express their views peacefully," US State Department spokesman Patrick Ventrell said.

The State Department warned Americans "to defer non-essential travel to Egypt at this time due to the continuing possibility of political and social unrest." "US citizens are urged to remain alert to local security developments and to be vigilant regarding their personal security," it added in an updated travel warning.

Malaysia too warned its nationals to postpone travel to Egypt. Germany warned that Egypt's fledgling democracy faced a "moment of truth", and urged Morsi to implement reforms.

Amnesty International called on the authorities to ensure the security forces showed restraint and protected peaceful demonstrators from violence over the weekend.

"They should make clear that anyone responsible for arbitrary and abusive force will be brought to justice," Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, Amnesty's Middle East deputy director said in a statement.

At least four other people have died since June 26 in clashes in the Nile Delta - three in Mansura city and one in Zagazig, medics said.

The army, which oversaw the transition from Mubarak's autocratic rule but has been on the sidelines since Morsi's election, has warned it would intervene in the event of violence.