El-Sisi pledges not to use force

2013-08-04 17:29

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Cairo - Egypt's army chief, Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, promised not to use force to end large vigils by supporters of ousted president Mohammed Morsi, a leading Islamist was quoted as saying on Sunday after talks with the military strongman.

Mohammed Hassan, a well-known Salafist preacher, and three other Muslim clerics met with el-Sisi to discuss an end to violence sparked by the army's overthrow of Morsi last month, the state-run newspaper al-Ahram reported.

"He pledged during the meeting not to end the sit-ins by force but also asked that the protesters be peaceful and not move to other places," Hassan said.

The army confirmed that the meeting was held and quoted el-Sisi, who engineered Morsi's overthrow, as saying there is "still a chance for a peaceful settlement to the crisis, provided that violence is avoided."

No representative from Morsi's Muslim Brotherhood attended the meeting, according to local media.

In a gesture of defiance, hundreds of the Brotherhood's followers on Sunday blocked a major road in Cairo for hours.

The Brotherhood has condemned Morsi's toppling as a coup and vowed to continue protesting until Egypt's first democratically elected president is restored to office.

The Defence Council, headed by caretaker President Adli Mansour, has voiced backing of the government's efforts to deal with what a presidential statement called "violations and security threats" from two pro-Morsi protest camps in Cairo.

"The council... also backs giving a chance for efforts, mediation and negotiations that can spare the nation perils from the two gatherings, but this should be within a limited time frame," the statement said.

The military-backed government threatened earlier in the week to clear out pro-Morsi protest camps in Rabaa al-Adawiya in north-eastern Cairo and al-Nahda Square, south of the capital, without giving a specific deadline.

Local and foreign human rights groups have warned that clearing the protests by force could result in a bloodbath.

More than 200 people, most of them Brotherhood followers, have been killed in Egypt since the army deposed Morsi on 3 July, after mass protests against his one-year rule.

US intervention

A senior US official has been in Egypt for the past two days, pushing for a solution to the crisis.

US Deputy Secretary of State William Burns met on Sunday with el-Sisi and exchanged views on stopping the violence and providing favourable conditions for achieving national reconciliation, al-Ahram reported.

The talks came one day after Burns conferred with Brotherhood representatives.

US Secretary of State John Kerry angered the Brotherhood for saying on Friday that the military was restoring democracy in Egypt when it removed Morsi.

The Brotherhood refuses to recognise the interim rulers and insists Morsi be reinstated and its detained leaders released.

The Islamist group's chief, Mohammed Badie, and his deputy, Khyrat al-Shater, are to be tried at a Cairo criminal court on 25 August, the state Middle East News Agency reported on Sunday.

Both are accused of inciting deadly violence against opponents.

In a related development, Egyptian authorities barred Yemeni Nobel Peace Prize laureate Tawakkul Karman from entering the country for security reasons, according to sources at Cairo airport.

Karman, a prominent pro-democracy activist, arrived aboard a flight from Dubai and was denied entry on instructions from security agencies, the sources said.

"The Egyptian security authorities forced me to leave after holding me for one hour without giving reasons," she posted on her Facebook page.

Karman, who shared the 2011 Nobel with two other women for their work on women's rights, has repeatedly criticised Egypt's military takeover last month.

Read more on:    mohammed morsi  |  mohammed badie  |  abdel fattah el-sisi  |  john kerry  |  william burns  |  egypt  |  north africa  |  egypt crisis

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