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US ambassador warns of more Mexico violence: reports

MEXICO CITY — US ambassador to Mexico Carlos Pascual said Wednesday that Mexico's clampdown on drug traffickers could provoke more violence in the short term.

In comments to Mexican media days after deadly attacks on US citizens and their families in Ciudad Juarez, Pascual warned of a possible escalation of violence.

"It's possible that the measures they (the Mexican authorities) are taking will provoke a reaction from the drug traffickers and that violence could increase in the short term," Pascual said in Spanish, according to El Universal newspaper.

Mexican President Felipe Calderon's military clampdown on organized crime, involving some 50,000 troops, is increasingly under fire at home, as more than 15,000 people have died in suspected drug attacks since it was launched at the end of 2006.

The Obama administration -- which has admitted joint US responsibility in Mexico's drug trafficking problem -- has up to now shown strong support for Calderon's measures.

However US Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said that Mexico's military strategy had failed to improve the situation in the country's most violent city of Ciudad Juarez, in comments on US broadcaster MSNBC on Tuesday.

"President Calderon of Mexico has been deeply involved (in tackling the violence), even sending in the military into (Ciudad) Juarez. That hasn't helped," Napolitano said.

Pascual underlined Wednesday that the United States "has completely supported Calderon's policy," according to El Universal.

The US ambassador traveled to Ciudad Juarez with Calderon on Tuesday, where the Mexican leader was met with protests by hundreds of residents frustrated by almost daily attacks, extortion and kidnappings which plague the violent city of some 1.3 million.

Mexican authorities have blamed Saturday's killings of an American employee of the US consulate who was three months pregnant, her husband and the husband of a Mexican consular employee on "the Aztecas," hitmen linked to the powerful Juarez drug cartel.

The United States said Wednesday it had no information that the attackers had gunned down the victims because of their work at the US consulate.

Mark Toner, a US State Department spokesman, told reporters that the consulate in Cuidad Juarez had reopened Wednesday after closing for a security assessment.

The United States shares technical expertise and has provided military equipment to Mexico under the multi-year 1.3-billion-dollar Merida Initiative to fight organized crime.

Seven people died in suspected drug-related violence overnight in Mexico's most violent northern border state of Chihuahua, justice officials said on Wednesday.