WASHINGTON, USA - America's top diplomat Hillary Clinton condemned "shocking" bloody clashes that rocked Cairo Wednesday, in a call to Egyptian Vice President Omar Suleiman.
As gunfire rang out in Cairo's Tahrir, or Liberation, Square in the early hours Thursday, the State Department said Clinton had called Suleiman, telling him violence that left at least three dead Wednesday "was a shocking development after many days of consistently peaceful demonstrations."
Witnesses meanwhile said at least two people were killed in sporadic gunfire that began around 4:00 am (0200 GMT) aimed at anti-regime protesters, with many more wounded. Army tanks positioned around the square appeared to move from their positions, but it was not clear if they were withdrawing.
Clinton's call came as Washington's patience was wearing thin amid spiraling violence after Egypt's President Hosni Mubarak rebuffed calls to begin an immediate power transfer.
The secretary of state "urged that the government of Egypt hold accountable those who were responsible for violent acts," the State Department said in a statement.
"Secretary Clinton also underscored the important role that the Egyptian Armed Forces have played in exercising restraint in the face of peaceful demonstrations and expressed concern that all parties recommit themselves to using only peaceful means of assembly."
The State Department said Clinton "expressed hope that 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."
"Lastly, the secretary noted that the United States remains committed to working in partnership with Egypt in helping to achieve the aspirations of the Egyptian people," it added.
The seat of US diplomacy separately issued a stark travel warning for US citizens in Egypt, urging those who want to leave to "immediately" head for the airport, adding that any delay was "not advisable" and that there would likely be no further government-chartered flights after Thursday.