WASHINGTON

White House makes pitch for responding with restraint

President Obama issued a plea for restraint in Egypt after meeting with national security aides Saturday to assess the Cairo government’s response to widespread protests threatening the stability of the country.

A White House statement said Obama “reiterated our focus on opposing violence and calling for restraint, supporting universal rights, and supporting concrete steps that advance political reform within Egypt.”

But Obama offered no reaction to President Hosni Mubarak’s decision earlier Saturday to name a vice president for the first time since coming to power nearly 30 years ago. Mubarak appointed his intelligence chief, Omar Suleiman, who’s well respected by American officials.

Before Suleiman’s appointment, State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley said the U.S. wanted to see Mubarak fulfill his pledges of reform as protests swept the country.

“The Egyptian government can’t reshuffle the deck and then stand pat,” Crowley said on his Twitter account. “President Mubarak’s words pledging reform must be followed by action.”

CAIRO

As vandals attack, military takes steps to safeguard art

Vandals broke into Cairo’s famed Egyptian Museum, ripping the heads off two mummies and damaging about 10 small artifacts before being caught and detained by army soldiers, Egypt’s antiquities chief said Saturday.

Zahi Hawass said the suspects did not manage to steal any of the museum’s antiquities, and that the prized collection was now safe and under military guard.

Fears that looters could target other ancient treasures at sites across the country prompted the military to dispatch armored personnel carriers and troops to the Pyramids of Giza, the temple city of Luxor and other key archaeological monuments.

The museum, which is home to the gold mask of King Tutankhamen that draws millions of tourists a year, also houses thousands of artifacts spanning the full sweep of Egypt’s rich pharaonic history.

Thomas Campbell, the director of New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art, said that if the repository of Egyptian art “is damaged through looting or fire, it would be a loss to all humankind.”

JERUSALEM

A wary Israel flies its citizens home, watches events unfold

Behind an official wall of silence, Israel watched nervously Saturday as anti-government unrest worsened in Egypt, fearful that the violent and growing street protests could topple Israel’s most important ally in the Arab world.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ordered his government to remain silent about the situation in Egypt. But in a clear reflection of Israel’s concerns, Sun D’Or, a subsidiary of Israel’s national airline, El Al, whisked dozens of Israelis, including diplomats’ families, out of Egypt on an emergency flight. The government also urged Israelis to avoid travel to Egypt.

Egypt was the first Arab country to make peace with Israel.

There were also concerns that anti-Israel opposition groups, including the fundamentalist Muslim Brotherhood, might gain a larger voice in Egyptian decision-making.

NEW YORK

At United Nations, protesters call for the world’s support

Hundreds of Egyptians demonstrated outside the United Nations complex in New York City on Saturday in support of the mass protests that have gripped their homeland.

The crowd was loud and emotional, but peaceful, as they called for the international community to support the popular uprising and abandon Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak.

Ahmed Soliman, of Manhattan, said Egypt deserves a leader who is “completely democratic.” He said he was sure the riots and massive demonstrations are the result of genuine popular anger, not the work of a scheming opposition party.

“This is coming from the people,” he said. “I left Egypt 18 years ago, and I have been dreaming of this day since then.”

Other demonstrations took place in Chicago, San Francisco and in dozens of cities around the world.