News Column

Fear of Violence Looms in Egypt

August 7, 2013

Fears of a violent showdown between Egyptian security forces and backers of ousted president Mohammed Morsi loomed larger Wednesday after Egypt's presidency reported that foreign efforts to mediate a political crisis had failed.

"Today ended the period of diplomatic efforts ... to persuade the Muslim Brotherhood and its supporters to renounce violence, avoid bloodshed and stop obstructing the progress of Egyptian society," read the statement.

Morsi's Brotherhood has vowed to continue protesting until he is reinstated, insisting that Morsi remains the legitimate president and that his ouster on July 3 was a military coup. The government, for its part, has called the Brotherhood obstructionist.

"The Egyptian presidency ... holds the Muslim Brotherhood fully responsible for blocking these efforts and for any results of that blockage, including incidents relating to infringements of the law and endangering public peace," the presidency added.

A Brotherhood official dismissed the presidential statement as "rejected talk." "Let the foreign mediators come out and announce who is to blame," said Hamza Zawba, a spokesman for the Islamist group.

"The actual problem is the coup, which we reject," he told the Qatari broadcaster Al Jazeera.

An alliance led by the Brotherhood has called on Egyptians to take to the streets on the first day of Eid al-Fitr, a festival marking the end of the Muslim holy lunar month of Ramadan. It is expected to start Thursday.

The alliance dubbed the rallies as the "Eid of Victory," to be staged to push for Morsi's reinstatement.

US Deputy Secretary of State William Burns and United Arab Emirates Foreign Minister Abdullah bin Zayed left Cairo Wednesday empty-handed despite four days of talks with Egypt's new rulers and Brotherhood officials.

Qatari Foreign Minister Khalid al-Attiyah and two US senators, who had also joined the efforts, left Cairo on Tuesday.

A European Union official has said that the bloc will continue efforts to help end the Egyptian crisis.

"We are very concerned about the latest reports. The EU is urging all political groups to find a peaceful solution to the current stalemate. We are present on the ground talking to all sides," said Michael Mann, spokesman for EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton.

The frenetic diplomatic activity came after the government ordered the police to take "necessary measures" to end large protest vigils by Morsi's backers in Cairo that have been going on for weeks.

Meanwhile, interim Prime Minister Hazem al-Bebalwy Wednesday met with the defence and interior ministers and discussed the situation in the volatile Sinai Peninsula as well as the pro-Morsi sit-ins, reported the online edition of state-run newspaper al-Ahram.

"The meeting emphasized an authorization given to the interior minister to confront violence and terrorism," added al-Ahram.

The government claims the sit-ins by Morsi's backers, in Rabaa al-Adawiya in north-eastern Cairo and al-Nahda squares south of the capital ,are violent and unlawful.

With more than 100 Morsi supporters killed by security forces in two July clashes near the Rabaa al-Adawiya protest camp, there are fears of a bloodbath if police move in to disperse the protesters by force.

In Sinai, a former parliamentarian was killed Wednesday when unknown gunmen fired on him as he left a mosque in the city of al-Arish, said security officials. The attack is the latest in a string of assaults, believed to be carried out by suspected radical Islamists, in Sinai since Morsi's overthrow.

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Source: Copyright 2013 dpa Deutsche Presse-Agentur GmbH

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