UPDATE: US declares new push to defuse Egyptian crisis

03.08.2013 00:44

The United States said on Friday it would
work with other nations to resolve Egypt's
crisis peacefully, injecting new energy into
a push to end a bloody standoff since the
overthrow of Islamist President Mohamed
A day after saying the army had restored
democracy by removing Mursi, U.S.
Secretary of State John Kerry urged
Egyptian authorities to give demonstrators
the space to protest in peace - a warning
against dispersing pro-Morsi sit-ins.
"Egypt needs to get back to a new normal,
it needs to restore stability, to be able to
attract business and put people to work,"
Kerry said before a meeting United Arab
Emirates Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah
bin Zayed in London.
"We will work very, very hard together
with others, in order to bring parties
together to find a peaceful resolution that
grows the democracy and respects the
rights of everybody."
This appeared to signal a new diplomatic
effort to end the crisis in which more
than 300 people have been killed since
the army removed Mursi and his Muslim
Brotherhood from power on July 3 in
response to mass protests against his rule.
Analysts say civilian members of the army-
backed interim administration are trying
to promote a political solution against the
wishes of the security services which want
to crack down hard on the Brotherhood.
Mohamed ElBaradei, vice president in the
new administration, said he was lobbying
for a peaceful outcome against others
advocating crushing the Brotherhood.
"People are very angry with me because I
am saying, 'Let's take time, let's talk to
them'. The mood right now is, 'Let's crush
them, let's not talk to them', said
ElBaradei, pressing the Brotherhood to
compromise. "I hope the Brotherhood
understands that time is not on their side.
I'm holding the fort, but I can't hold it
for very long."
Egypt is more polarised than at any time
since the downfall of autocratic president
Hosni Mubarak in 2011, complicating
mediation efforts in a pivotal Arab state
fraught with unrest.
In a possible attempt to ease tensions,
Egyptian state TV reported that the
Interior Ministry did not want to break up
Brotherhood protests in Cairo by force. It
would, however, impose a cordon around
them, the TV said, without saying when.
But trouble flared elsewhere in the
Egyptian capital.
The Brotherhood, decrying what it sees as
a coup against the country's first freely-
elected head of state, announced two new
sit-ins and its supporters clashed with
police during a protest near a complex of
television studios outside Cairo.
Tear gas was fired and state media
reported army helicopters hovered
overhead. The Brotherhood also
announced marches to three sensitive
security installations later on Friday,
raising the prospect of more violence.
With the United States supplying Egypt
with $1.3 billion in military aid each year
and the United Arab Emirates having
pledged $3 billion to the new
administration, the countries may be able
to help force a compromise.
In London, Sheikh Abdullah said a
peaceful resolution required "inclusive
dialogue". Qatar, which backed the Mursi
administration with substantial financial
aid, will help by liaising with the
"The UAE, with the United States and
others, is doing its very best to give this
government the support it needs, but also
to encourage all the other parties to reach
a position where it can negotiate with this
government - here I'm talking about the
previous government," the Sheikh
Abdullah said.
The army-backed government has drawn
up a transition plan envisaging
parliamentary and presidential elections
that will start in about six months. But the
Brotherhood protests are threatening to
rob the government of a semblance of
normality it needs to revive an economy
which deep in crisis.
Morsi has been in detention since he was
deposed and is facing a judicial inquiry
into accusations of murder and
conspiring with the Palestinian group
Sisi need for political solution
The authorities have also rounded up
many other Brotherhood leaders, feeding
international fears of a plan to uproot a
group that was suppressed for decades
until Mubarak was ousted.
The Brotherhood leadership has mostly
been accused of inciting violence. The
government accuses Mursi's supporters of
taking up arms, even alleging they engage
in terrorism.
ElBaradei, a former United Nations
nuclear chief, outlined ideas for a political
deal that might include a pardon for
Mursi and guarantees that the
Brotherhood would have a place in
political life. Speaking in an interview with
the Washington Post, he said army chief
Abdel Fattah al-Sisi understood the need
for a political solution.
"But of course he has a responsibility to
protect the country in terms of security.
And the army is on the edge."
He said dialogue was the way to end the
Brotherhood sit-ins. The government
promised this week to break up the
protests, describing them as a threat to
national security. "I do not want to see
any more bloodshed. Nobody wants that.
We are doing our best," ElBaradei said.
"They need to cooperate," he added, in
reference to the Brotherhood. "But they
need of course to feel secure, they need
immunity, they need to feel that they are
not excluded. It's things we are willing to
He added that Sisi, who has gained
enormous popularity since deposing
Mursi, was not thinking of running for
The biggest sit-in is in northeast Cairo,
where several thousand Mursi supporters
have been camped out for more than a
month in a protest that at times swells to
tens of thousands.
The order to clear the protest raised fears
of mass casualties after 80 of Mursi's
supporters were shot dead by security
forces last Saturday in violence near the
But the authorities have so far held off,
giving the diplomats more time to find a
"The idea of storming the camp by force
is one rejected by the Interior Ministry,
but a blockade will be imposed in all the
streets leading to Rabaa," state TV's
security correspondent reported from
outside the Interior Ministry. He was
referring to Rabaa al-Adawiya, site of the
biggest of sit-in.
'We're not terrorists'
"We are here with our wives and children.
We don't want violence," said Ali el-
Shishtawi, a government employee at the
sit-in. "We're not afraid. We're not
terrorists like they say."
The new government gained a U.S. seal of
approval late on Thursday when Kerry
said the army had been "restoring
democracy" when it toppled Mursi -
Washington's strongest endorsement yet
for the new leadership.
"The military was asked to intervene by
millions and millions of people, all of
whom were afraid of a descent into
chaos, into violence," Kerry told GEO TV
in Pakistan. "And the military did not take
over, to the best of our judgment - so
Washington's efforts to avoid calling
Mursi's overthrow a "military coup" has
left it open to charges of sending mixed
messages about events in Egypt, long a
bulwark of U.S. Middle East policy.
Mohamed Ali Bishr, a senior Brotherhood
leader and a minister in Mursi's former
government, said the movement was
disappointed by Kerry's statement.
"The United States is a country that
speaks of democracy and human rights
and they say something like that. I hope
that they rethink their position and
correct it," he told Reuters.