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US urges Egyptians to ensure protests are peaceful

An Egyptian man waves the national flag in a demonstration against president Mohammed Morsi in Cairo on June 28, 2013
An Egyptian man waves the national flag during a demonstration against president Mohammed Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood in Cairo'sTahrir Square on June 28, 2013. A US State Department official on Friday urged Egyptian political leaders to ensure protes

Egyptian political leaders must take steps to ensure that demonstrations sweeping Cairo and other cities do not descend into violence, a top US official urged Friday.

In "our opinion, all Egyptians have the right to express their opinions and concerns freely. We've urged the government to protect that right," acting deputy State Department spokesman Patrick Ventrell said.

"We urge all parties to refrain from violence and express their views peacefully. And political leaders have the responsibility of taking steps to ensure that groups do not resort to violence."

His warning came as supporters and opponents of Egyptian Islamist President Mohamed Morsi took to the streets for rival protests a year after his election.

Fervent displays of emotion on both sides underline the bitter divisions sweeping Egypt, with Morsi's opponents accusing him of hijacking the February 2011 revolution and his supporters vowing to defend his legitimacy to the end.

One person was killed and at least 70 injured in second city Alexandria, state media reported.

Ventrell also stressed that Washington did not "support any individual or a particular party in Egypt. We are supportive of the success of all Egyptians."

But he reiterated a US call for the Egyptian government to complete reforms so that it can secure an IMF loan.

"We want the Egyptians to step forward to be able to move forward and have the kind of reforms that are going to put their economy back on track and their political system on track," he told reporters.

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