WASHINGTON, Dec 13, 2012 (AFP) -
WASHINGTON, Dec 13, 2012 (AFP) –
The United States Thursday urged Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi to lead efforts to forge a consensus as his troubled nation prepares to vote on a divisive new constitution.
A staggered referendum to decide on the text begins on Saturday across half of Egypt, including in Cairo and Alexandria. The rest of the country will vote a week later, on December 22.
But amid weeks of protests and street demonstrations by Islamists supporters of Morsi and the secular opposition, there are fears of even further violence and upheaval after eight people were killed and more than 600 injured in Cairo last week.
State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said Washington was urging “Egypt’s political leaders of all stripes to make clear to their supporters that violence of any kind during this polling is unacceptable.”
“At the same time, we call on President Morsi, as the first democratically elected leader of Egypt, to lead the effort before, during and after the voting to continue to try to build a national consensus.”
Washington is greatly concerned that new violence could flare and lead to further bloodshed, she said.
“If and as this referendum goes forward as planned, this will be an opportunity for Egyptians to exercise their democratic rights and to do so peacefully and to participate in the future of their country,” she said.
“This is a key democratic moment for Egypt, so all Egyptian citizens should participate, and they should do so peacefully.”
The US administration has been widely criticized for failing to condemn outright Morsi’s power grab in which he gave himself near absolute powers for two weeks, before rescinding his presidential decree at the weekend.