Obama worried by violence in Egypt

2013-06-29 20:31
(Picture: AFP)

(Picture: AFP)

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Cairo - Egypt braced on Saturday for possibly more deadly clashes between friends and foes of Islamist President Mohammed Morsi, as US President Barack Obama expressed concern about violence after a young American was killed.

Three people died and scores were hurt on Friday after Islamist supporters of Morsi turned out to challenge opponents demanding that he step down.

The army, which has stayed aloof from politics since Morsi was elected a year ago, has warned it will intervene if there is major unrest.

Speaking in South Africa, Obama said of Egypt: "We are all looking at the situation there with concern."

"We would urge all parties to make sure they are not engaging in violence and that police and military are showing appropriate restraint.

"Everybody has to denounce violence. We would like to see the opposition and President Morsi engage in a more constructive conversation about [how] to move their country forward."

Andrew Pochter, 21, who was working as an intern with Amiseast, a US cultural and educational group, was killed as he photographed clashes in the Mediterranean city of Alexandria, Egyptian officials said.

Another man was killed during earlier clashes there.

And an Egyptian journalist in the Suez Canal city of Port Said was killed and several others wounded by a small explosive device thrown at anti-Morsi protesters, a security official and witnesses said.

Across the country more than 130 people were reported wounded.

Travel warning

The offices of the Freedom and Justice Party, the political arm of the Muslim Brotherhood from which Morsi hails, were torched in Alexandria and at Aga in Daqahliya. Its offices were stormed in Beheira.

Washington warned Americans against travel to Egypt as antagonism intensifies between Morsi's supporters and the opposition, which accuses him of betraying the 2011 revolution that ousted Hosni Mubarak.

The state department warned Americans "to defer non-essential travel to Egypt at this time due to the continuing possibility of political and social unrest".

Britain urged its citizens to "avoid all demonstrations and large gatherings", while France said citizens should "limit movements to those strictly necessary".

Amnesty International called on the authorities to ensure the security forces showed restraint and protected peaceful demonstrators over the weekend.

Morsi's opponents, a collection of leftists, liberals, Christians and some Muslim groups, have called nationwide protests for Sunday. They are demanding that he resign and that snap elections be held.

Second revolution

That prompted Friday pre-emptive demonstrations by the Muslim Brotherhood and its Islamist allies.

By Saturday, rival demonstrators had pitched their tents and started preparing for the long haul.

Morsi supporters spent the night outside the Rabaa Al-Adawiya mosque in Cairo's Nasr City neighbourhood, where tens of thousands gathered on Friday to defend the legitimacy of Egypt's first freely elected president.

"It's not just about Morsi, it's about legitimacy and the state. We can't go backwards," said protester Kamal Ahmed Kamel, a pharmacist.

Others called on the opposition to invest their energy in the political process.

"If it is that big tomorrow, why can't they use the ballot box and participate in parliamentary elections and get rid of Morsi that way?" Kamel asked.

In Tahrir Square, epicentre of the 2011 revolt that toppled Mubarak, opponents have pitched dozens of tents and erected a large stage in preparation for what they call a "second revolution".

Some activists say they want the country run by a presidential council and a national unity government.

"The Islamists have been in power for a year and they proved they failed at running the country," said one, Adel al-Amir.

Newspapers underlined the deep division in the Arab world's most populous nation.

Morsi’s warning

Independent daily Al-Tahrir described Friday's rallies as "Egypt against the Brotherhood", and state-owned daily Al-Gomhuria talked of "The Battle of the Squares".

Morsi, 61, stands accused of failing the revolution that brought him to power and of ignoring nearly half of the electorate of some 50 million who did not vote for him.

He warned in a televised speech on Wednesday that the growing polarisation threatened to "paralyse" Egypt, and appealed to the opposition to join talks.

But the opposition National Salvation Front coalition rejected his offer and renewed its call for an election.

Sunday's protests have been called by Tamarod (Arabic for Rebellion), a grassroots movement which says it now has 22 million signatures on a petition demanding Morsi's resignation and a snap election.

Friday's pro-Morsi demonstrations were seen as a pre-emptive strike by his supporters against what they see as an attempt to subvert a fledgling democracy.

"We will not allow a coup against the president," senior Brotherhood leader Mohamed al-Beltagui told a mass rally in Cairo.

Read more on:    mohammed morsi  |  barack obama  |  egypt  |  egypt protests  |  north africa

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