Washington (CNN) - President Barack Obama's spokesman criticized the Egyptian government on Tuesday for arresting and harassing journalists and rights activists, and called comments by Vice President Omar Suleiman that Egypt is not ready for democracy "particularly unhelpful."
The remarks by White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs reflected a growing U.S. dissatisfaction with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and Suleiman, the intelligence officer Mubarak chose as his deputy to bring about reforms demanded by protesters who have convulsed Cairo and the Egyptian economy for more than two weeks.
In another sign of U.S. frustration with the pace of reform in Egypt, Vice President Joe Biden, in a phone call Tuesday with Suleiman, pushed for more progress, according to a White House statement.
So far, the Obama administration has been careful to call for democratic reforms in Egypt while also trying to maintain stability in a key Middle Eastern ally that is a vital Arab partner to Israel through the Camp David Accords of 1978.
With detentions, beatings and harassment of journalists and rights activists continuing, and the weekend comments by Suleiman that signaled a shaky commitment to the reforms offered by Mubarak, Gibbs made a point of directly criticizing both the vice president and the Egyptian government in a briefing with White House reporters.
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