WASHINGTON, Feb. 2 (UPI) -- The U.S. State Department Wednesday advised U.S. citizens in Egypt who wish to leave on a government flight to report immediately to airport facilities.
The advisory said "further delay is not advisable" and outgoing government flights "are unlikely" are unlikely after Thursday, NBC News reported.
Violence in Cairo intensified during pre-dawn hours Thursday, with anti-government protesters apparently driving pro-government forces away from Tahrir Square. Images telecast by MSNBC showed protesters chasing supporters of President Hosni Mubarak away from the area where anti-government demonstrations entered their 10th day. Sporadic gunfire could be heard and NBC News said pro-Mubarak elements had thrown Molotov cocktails at protesters.
The State Department said late Wednesday Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had called Egyptian Vice President Omar Soliman "to convey that today's violence was a shocking development after many days of consistently peaceful demonstrations."
"The Secretary urged that the Government of Egypt hold accountable those who were responsible for violent acts," the State Department said in a news release."
Clinton said the Egyptian military has exercised "restraint in the face of peaceful demonstrations" and she also urged all parties in the ongoing clashes to "recommit themselves to using only peaceful means of assembly."
The statement said Clinton told the Egyptian vice president she hoped "both the government and the opposition would seize the opportunity, starting immediately, for serious, meaningful negotiations about Egypt's transition to a more open, pluralistic, and democratic government."
Clinton has emerged as key to the Obama administration's handling of the crisis in Egypt, observers say. It was Clinton who suggested sending former Ambassador Frank Wisner to Cairo to tell President Hosni Mubarak he should not seek re-election, an administration official told Politico.
She is said to have special insights into Mubarak's behavior from years of contact with him and his wife, Suzanne.
"Hillary knows Mubarak is a dictator, and they aren't close friends," a former top diplomat told Politico. "But she knows him well enough, well enough to know this guy isn't Saddam Hussein, and he's probably the one who told the army not to fire into the crowd."
Clinton is even closer to Suzanne Mubarak, supporting her efforts to reduce youth unemployment and to stop human trafficking and the genital mutilation of girls.
Clinton drew criticism for a 2009 interview when she said, "I really consider President and Mrs. Mubarak to be friends of my family. So I hope to see him often here in Egypt and in the United States."
"You need someone out there who understands the complexity of this situation," said former Ambassador Daniel Kurtzer. "And she's one of the only people who could step in."