White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs delivered a forcefully critical statement quoting President Obama, saying, "The time for a transition has come and that time is now. The Egyptian people need to see change."

Even as Cairo’s central Tahrir Square was gripped by violent, pitched battles between pro- and anti-government protestors for a second day, the United States government appeared to have changed tack towards a more critical view of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and his regime.

On Wednesday, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called Egyptian Vice President Omar Soliman to convey that the violence in Cairo’s Tahrir Square and elsewhere "was a shocking development after many days of consistently peaceful demonstrations."

The Secretary was said to have urged that the government of Egypt “hold accountable those who were responsible for violent acts," underscoring the importance of the Egyptian Armed Forces "exercising restraint in the face of peaceful demonstrations."

In a call with Mr. Mubarak after the early days of the protests, U.S. President Barack Obama had said that concrete steps were required to advance the rights of the Egyptian people through a meaningful dialogue between the government and its citizens.

However on Wednesday, White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs delivered a more forcefully critical statement quoting Mr. Obama, saying, "The time for a transition has come and that time is now. The Egyptian people need to see change."

Meaningful transition

Touching upon the role of the opposition, which includes the Muslim Brotherhood, Mr. Gibbs added, "We know that that meaningful transition must include opposition voices and parties being involved in this process as we move toward free and fair elections. But that process must begin now."

The State Department also formally denounced the "violent attacks on peaceful demonstrators and journalists" in Egypt, with its spokesman P.J. Crowley issuing a statement saying, "The U.S. denounces these attacks and calls on all engaged in demonstrations currently taking place in Egypt to do so peacefully."

Arguing that the attacks were a direct threat to the aspirations of the Egyptian people, Mr. Crowley added, "The use of violence to intimidate the Egyptian people must stop... We strongly call for restraint."

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