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The United States said Sunday it was offering evacuation flights to Europe for U.S. citizens who wish to leave Egypt, which has been rocked by violent protests seeking an end to President Hosni Mubarak’s rule and an outbreak of mass looting. The U.S. warned that Americans should consider leaving as soon as possible came on the sixth day of unprecedented protests against Mubarak’s regime that have rocked the Arab world. More than 100 people have been killed so far.

NBC News’ Richard Engel, who is in Cairo, reported that 4,000 people had been wounded and 500 others, many of them women, were missing. Thousands of people gathered again Sunday in the central Tahrir Square, calling for Mubarak to quit. In the afternoon, about 15 tanks moved into the square as helicopters and military jets flew over head. There were reports of growing unease among the crowd. State media reported Sunday that Mubarak had met with top military commanders. Protesters have been trying to win over the army, whose support for the president is key to his survival as leader.

Meanwhile, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said the U.S. expects that the protests in Egypt will lead to free and fair elections as part of an “orderly” transition to “real democracy.””I want the Egyptian people to have a chance to chart a new future,” said Clinton, who addressed the volatile situation in back-to-back interviews on the five morning shows before leaving on a trip to Haiti. Asked if she thought Mubarak had taken the necessary steps so far to hold on, Clinton said, “It’s not a question of who retains power. . It’s how are we going to respond to the legitimate needs and grievances expressed by the Egyptian people and chart a new path. Clearly, the path that has been followed has not been one that has created that democratic future, that economic opportunity that people in the peaceful protests are seeking.” The State Department said flights to evacuation points would begin Monday.

“The U.S. Embassy in Cairo informs U.S. citizens in Egypt who wish to depart that the Department of State is making arrangements to provide transportation to safe haven locations in Europe,” it said in a statement , describing the evacuation as voluntary. The warning was an escalation in the assessment of the situation by the U.S. government, which previously had advised against non-essential travel to Egypt and told people already there to stay put. NBC News reported that there were 500 U.S. embassy personnel, not including dependants, and an estimated 50,000 U.S. citizens in Egypt plus another 36,000 nationals of other countries that the U.S. would assist if a large-scale evacuation was launched.

“We do encourage U.S. citizens living and residing abroad to sign up with us at,” the U.S. State Department said in a statement. “This not only allows us to make more accurate plans in the event of a crisis in country, but enables us to provide those U.S. citizens with information and to reach them, should an emergency occur.”
Senior U.S. military officials told NBC News that there was no active planning for the U.S. military to help evacuate Americans from Egypt as of Sunday morning. However, the officials added that the Pentagon and CENTCOM were looking at all possible means to launch a non-combatant evacuation operation using ships, helicopters and aircraft. NBC News said the officials stressed no decisions had been made and no military assets had been ordered to move in that direction.

Also Sunday, Turkey announced it was sending planes to Egypt to evacuate its citizens, according to the Anatolian Agency. Officials said two planes were being sent and the operation would take place over several days if necessary. Also, India sent a special plane to fly 300 of its citizens out of Egypt, The Times of India reported.




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