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U.S. Treads Lightly Around Egypt's Unrest

Egyptian riot police clash with anti-government activists in Cairo, Egypt, Wednesday, Jan. 26, 2011. Ben Curtis

The Obama administration appears to be struggling with how to weigh an important relationship with Egypt's authoritarian President Hosni Mubarak and, at the same time, support pro-democracy protestors.

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In response to an email from CBS News as to whether the U.S. still "supports" the Mubarak regime, White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said, "This isn't about support or opposition to leaders - it's about the support of universal rights of assembly and expression. We criticize actions that restrict those values."

State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley said, "Egypt is an ally and friend of the United States. President Mubarak is a significant contributor to current efforts to achieve Middle East peace. At the same time, we encourage the government to take advantage of the opportunity to undertake political, economic and social reform. We do not see these as being in contradiction."

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton also called this an "important opportunity" for Egypt to enact reforms.

She made her comments alongside the Jordanian foreign minister who called the current impasse in Mideast peace negotiations "very, very unsettling" and added "the current stagnation...has dangerous repercussions."