Egypt ’ s government tells police to break up pro- Morsi protests

CAIRO -- Egypt's military-backed
interim government on Wednesday
ordered the country's security
forces to break up protest
encampments in the capital where
thousands of supporters of ousted
president Mohamed Morsi have held
running demonstrations over the
past month.
The cabinet's statement
underscored the potential for
renewed violence on Egypt's streets
less than a week after security
forces killed more than 80 Morsi
supporters in hours of clashes on
the perimeter of one sit-in site.
The vow to disperse the protesters
also highlighted the ineffectiveness
of a visit Monday and Tuesday by
Catherine Ashton, the European
Union's foreign policy chief, in an
effort to facilitate dialogue and end
Egypt's political impasse. Ashton
was the first foreign official to
meet with Morsi, who has beeny
held incommunicado since the
military ousted him in a July 3
coup .The cabinet signaled Wednesday
that Interior Ministry forces had
been ordered to use "all necessary
measures" to break up two
sprawling sit-in sites, one in the
eastern Cairo district of Nasr City
and the other in Cairo's sister city
of Giza. The cabinet did not specify
a time frame.
"The continuation of the grave
situation in Rabaa and Nahda
squares and the acts of terrorism,
intimidation and cutting off roads
is no longer acceptable,"
Information Minister Dorreya
Sharaf said, reading from the
cabinet statement in an appearance
broadcast on national television.
The tent encampment outside the
Rabaa al-Adawiya mosque in
Cairo's Nasr City has come to
resemble a miniature city, complete
with electrical wiring and portable
stoves, and is populated by entire
families, including children.
In addition to Ashton and other
European officials, the Obama
administration has also urged
Egypt's interim authorities and its
military to avoid state-sanctioned
violence and to make the transition
to democracy as soon as possible.
At a news briefing Wednesday, U.S.
State Department deputy
spokeswoman Marie Harf said,
"We've continued to urge the
interim government officials and
security forces to respect the right
of peaceful assembly. That
obviously includes sit-ins."
Egyptian security forces have
rounded up hundreds of Morsi
supporters, including several top
officials in Morsi's Muslim
Brotherhood and other prominent
Islamists in the four weeks since the
coup.
On Wednesday, a Cairo
misdemeanor court sentenced
Morsi's last prime minister, Hesham
Kandil, to 12 months in prison for
failing to implement while in office
a court order mandating the return
of a privatized company to the
state.
Prosecutors also referred the
Muslim Brotherhood's supreme
guide, Mohammed Badie, and two
other top officials to a criminal
court on charges of killing
protesters in front of the group's
headquarters, where clashes
erupted in June as Brotherhood
opponents tried to storm the
building.
Egyptian news media have ramped
up popular sentiment against the
Islamists in the weeks since the
coup, accusing the Muslim
Brotherhood of "terrorist" tactics
and reporting on alleged
conspiracies between the
Brotherhood and the U.S.
government to get Morsi back into
power.
Also Wednesday, a delegation of
African Union officials said that
they, too, had been granted a late-
night meeting with the deposed
president, a day after Ashton met
with him. But the visits by the two
foreign delegations appeared to
have had little impact on Egypt's
political turmoil.
Ashton met with Morsi late
Monday. Neither she nor the
African Union group disclosed
where Morsi is being held or the
substance of what was said,
although both delegations said that
Morsi appeared to be doing well.
The African Union delegation met
with him for an hour late Tuesday,
a member said at a news
conference Wednesday.
Ashton also met with the chief of
Egypt's armed forces, Gen. Abdel
Fatah al-Sissi, and a range of
government figures, politicians and
activists, including representatives
of the Muslim Brotherhood.
On Tuesday, Ashton held a news
conference with Egypt's interim
vice president, Mohamed ElBaradei,
a liberal leader and key
interlocutor for the military-backed
interim government.
ElBaradei said that he thought Morsi
had "failed" during his year in
power but that his Muslim
Brotherhood allies should be part of
the new political "road map" going
forward.
"We would very much like them to
be part of the political process,"
said ElBaradei, a Nobel Peace Prize
laureate and former head of the
International Atomic Energy
Agency. ElBaradei has expressed
muted criticism of Egyptian security
forces, who have killed more than
130 Morsi supporters in two
separate incidents since the coup.
Sharaf al-Hourani and Amer
Shakhatreh contributed to this
report.