Egypt crisis deepens, EU’s Ashton visits Cairo

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Egypt crisis deepens, EU’s Ashton visits Cairo

EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton flew into Egypt for talks Monday as international pressure increased on the new regime over the weekend’s violence, which claimed more than 80 lives.

By (AFP)

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Published: Mon 29 Jul 2013, 11:53 AM

Last updated: Tue 7 Apr 2015, 5:47 PM

But the country’s new rulers warned they would take “decisive and firm” action against protesters if they went beyond their right to peaceful demonstration.

A photo released by the Egyptian army, opponents of Egypt's ousted President Mohammed Mursi protest at Tahrir Square in Cairo, Egypt.- AP

Even after the deaths of 72 people at a pro-Mursi demonstration in Cairo Saturday, supporters of the ousted president remained defiant, saying they were determined to maintain what they insisted were peaceful protests. Nine more people died in violence in Egypt’s second city, Alexandria.

Egypt’s vice presidency said Ashton would meet with interim president Adly Mansour and Mohamed ElBaradei, who is vice president for international affairs. ElBaradei on Saturday night denounced the “excessive use of force” against protesters.

State news agency MENA said Ashton would also hold talks with members of deposed president Mohamed Mursi’s Muslim Brotherhood and the Tamarod group that organised the huge protests that led up to his overthrow by the army.

“I deeply deplore the loss of life,” said Ashton in a statement, adding that she would be pressing the need for all sides to be included in the return to democracy, “including the Muslim Brotherhood”.

UN leader Ban Ki-moon warned Egypt’s interim leadership on Sunday that every death made it harder to drag the country out of its crisis, a spokeswoman said.

Ban “expressed his profound concern about the direction in which the transition in Egypt is moving” and condemned the heightened violence, UN spokeswoman Morana Song said.

He called on the authorities to protect “all Egyptians, regardless of party affiliation”, Song added.

But tensions remained high after Saturday’s killings, the bloodiest incident since Mursi’s overthrow on July 3.

Egypt’s presidency reacted Sunday to the bloodshed a day earlier.

“We are saddened by the spilling of blood on the 27th,” Mansour adviser Moustafa Hegazy told reporters.

Interior Minister Mohamed Ibrahim warned that his forces would “not allow any mercenary or person bearing a grudge to try to disrupt the atmosphere of unity.

“We will confront them with the greatest of force and firmness,” he added. And the National Defence Council warned protesters on Sunday night “not to exceed their rights to peaceful, responsible expression of their opinions”.

They would face “decisive and firm decisions and actions in response to any violations”, the statement warned.

The council, presided over by Mansour, includes the army chief as well as the prime minister and interior minister.

Mursi loyalists, still camped out at the scene of Saturday’s violence, were defiant.

“There are feelings of agony and anger, but also a very strong feeling of determination,” Brotherhood spokesman Gehad E -Haddad told AFP.

Mursi’s supporters said they were targeted with live fire, while the interior ministry insisted only tear gas had been used.

Saturday’s violence, which came after a night of rival protests for and against Mursi, was the bloodiest incident since the leader was forced from power and detained by the army on July 3.

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