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Obama appeals for restraint in Egyptian protests

Responding to the escalating anti-government protests in Egypt, President Obama warned Monday that there could be more violence and urged people on both sides of the uprising to "show restraint."

Mr. Obama, speaking during a press conference in Tanzania, said that the top priorities of the United States are to make sure its embassies and consulates are protected in Egypt and that President Mohamed Morsi's government and the opposition groups now in the streets "remain peaceful."

"Although we have not seen the kind of violence that many had feared so far, the potential remains there, and everybody has to show restraint," Mr. Obama said. "I should add, by the way, we had seen many reports of women being assaulted in these protests. And for those who are participating in these protests or marches, assaulting women does not qualify as peaceful protest."

Protesters attacked the headquarters of the Muslim Brotherhood over the weekend, as crowds gathered across Egypt to call for the resignation of Mr. Morsi, a former member of the Muslim Brotherhood.

The organizers of the anti-government movement, Tamarod, have issued a warning that Mr. Morsi has until Tuesday afternoon to step down, or else they will ratchet up their campaign to oust him from office.

The Egyptian military also weighed in, vowing to intervene in 48 hours and put forward a political road map for the country if Mr. Morsi and his rivals cannot strike a deal that meets "the people's demands."

"The Armed Forces repeat its call for the people's demands to be met and give everyone 48 hours as a last chance to shoulder the burden of a historic moment for a nation that will not forgive or tolerate any party that is lax in shouldering its responsibility," the military said.

News reports say that the protests have for the most part been peaceful, but that they have resulted in some deaths, including Andrew Pochter, an American who apparently was killed while photographing the clashes.

"I do think that if the situation is going to resolve itself for the benefit of Egypt over the long term, then all the parties there have to step back from maximalist positions," Mr. Obama said.

The uproar in Egypt as well as the deepening scandal over leaked documents that signaled the U.S. may have spied on foreign missions and embassies, dogged Mr. Obama during his six-day, three-nation, swing through Africa.

Asked about new reports suggesting the National Security Agency had bugged European Union office in New York and Washington, Mr. Obama said that every intelligence service — "not just ours" — is "seeking additional insight beyond what's available through open sources."

"If that weren't the case, then there'd be no use for an intelligence service," he said. "And I guarantee you that in European capitals, there are people who are interested in, if not what I had for breakfast, at least what my talking points might be should I end up meeting with their leaders. That's how intelligence services operate."

Mr. Obama's stop in Tanzania marked the final leg of a six-day, three-nation, tour through Africa. Mr. Obama and his family on Sunday toured Robben Island in South Africa, the prison that held Nelson Mandela for nearly 20 years.

Mr. Mandela, now 94, is in critical condition with a lung infection in a South Africa hospital.

Mr. Obama traveled first to Senegal before traveling to South African, where he announced his $7 billion "Power Africa" initiative, which supports the development of a more reliable electric power grid in sub-Saharan Africa.

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