US says Egypt needs to do more on religious tolerance

* State Department expects commitment to tolerance

* Says Egyptian statement important first step

WASHINGTON, Jan 17 (Reuters) - The United States on Thursday

called an Egyptian statement about religious tolerance "a good

first step" but said Egypt must do more after vitriolic comments

about Zionists made by President Mohamed Mursi in 2010 surfaced.

The comments, made by Mursi when he was a leading figure in

the Muslim Brotherhood opposition movement, sparked strong

condemnation by the U.S. State Department and an explicit demand

that he "repudiate" them.

Mursi's comments were reported this week by The New York

Times, which said it had obtained video of a 2010 speech in

which he urged Egyptians to "nurse our children and our

grandchildren on hatred" for Jews and Zionists.

In a TV interview that the paper said he made months later

and that Reuters viewed on YouTube, Mursi described Zionists as

"these bloodsuckers who attack the Palestinians, these

warmongers, the descendants of apes and pigs."

Egyptian authorities subsequently issued two statements, the

first of which said the comments were taken out of context, but

stressed Mursi's commitment to full respect for religions and

freedom of belief and worship.

The second statement said the Egyptian government rejects

"all forms of discrimination and incitement to violence or

hostility on the basis of religion."

The second statement appeared to have gone some way toward

mollifying the United States but there were lingering concerns.

"That statement was an important first step to make clear

that the type of offensive rhetoric that we saw in 2010 is not

acceptable, not productive, and shouldn't be part of a

democratic Egypt," State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland

told reporters.

"That said, we look to President Mursi and Egyptian leaders

to demonstrate in both word and in deed their commitment to

religious tolerance and to upholding all of Egypt's

international obligations," she added.

"We consider this a good first step," she said. "They need

to keep moving."

In mentioning its international obligations, Nuland appeared

to be referring to Egypt's peace treaty with Israel in 1979,

which made it the first Arab state to make peace with Israel and

leading to what is now $1.3 billion in annual U.S. military aid.

Mursi's comments appeared at odds with the diplomatic,

moderate image the Islamist leader has sought to convey since

taking office last year and may stir unease among Egypt's

Western allies whose aid he needs to weather a financial crisis.

The United States, which was a staunch ally of Egypt's

former leader, Hosni Mubarak, until he was overthrown in 2011,

is now trying to build a dependable relationship with Mursi.

Earlier this week, the State Department said it had told

Egypt authorities that his comments were sure to be of concern

in the U.S. Congress, which the Obama administration trying to

persuade to give economic support to Egypt.

(Reporting By Arshad Mohammed; Editing by Doina Chiacu)