Praying for an End to Egyptian Violence

Supporters of President Hosni Mubarak, including some riding horses and camels and wielding whips, march towards anti-Mubarak protesters in Cairo, Egypt, Wednesday, Feb. 2, 2011. Several thousand supporters of President Hosni Mubarak, clashed with anti-government protesters Wednesday as Egypt's upheaval took a dangerous new turn. In chaotic scenes, the two sides pelted each other with stones, and protesters dragged pro-Mubarak supporters off their horses. (AP Photo/Amr Nabil)

President Barack Obama says he's praying that the "violence will end" in turbulent Egypt.

Appearing at the annual National Prayer Breakfast in Washington, Obama said Thursday that the United States is "mindful of the violence" that has erupted there in the last 48 hours.

He said he hopes the aspirations of the Egyptian people can be realized. Obama also said he's wishing that "a better day will dawn over Egypt and through the world."

The U.S. administration has been calling repeatedly in recent days for embattled President Hosni Mubarak to accept the clamor for change in the country he's ruled for 30 years and to start a transition toward a more democratic system. Obama has urged restraint on all sides amid an escalation in violence in the streets of Cairo.

However, an Egyptian official says his government believes that White House demands for Mubarak to step down immediately are in "clear contradiction" with Obama administration calls for an orderly transition to a new government.

The official, speaking for his government from a location outside Egypt, told The Associated Press Wednesday that Mubarak's decision not to seek reelection in September was not a result of White House pressure.

The official spoke on condition of anonymity, saying his government would not allow him to associate his name with the statement.

The official said in the statement: "There is a clear contradiction between an orderly process of transition and the insistence that this process be rushed."

Still, the U.S. says the sooner Egypt holds free and fair elections, the better.

Comments at the State Department Wednesday went beyond hints dropped earlier this week that the U.S. would prefer that elections now slated for September be moved up.

State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley says the U.S. wants to see what he calls free, fair and credible elections. And he adds, in his words, "The sooner that can happen, the better."

Crowley stressed that any decision on presidential voting is up to the people of Egypt.

Meanwhile, the U.S. is condemning what it calls a "concerted campaign to intimidate international journalists" covering the protests and violence in Cairo.

Foreign journalists in Egypt are reporting a string of attacks against them Wednesday and Thursday by supporters of Mubarak, whose resignation is being demanded by the demonstrators.

State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley said Thursday via Twitter that the campaign against journalists is intended to interfere with their reporting. He said: "We condemn such actions."

The Egyptian military began rounding up journalists Thursday morning, possibly for their own protection.

©2011 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.