CAIRO, July 15, 2013 (AFP)
CAIRO, July 15, 2013 (AFP)
A senior US official was in Cairo Monday to press for a return to elected government following Mohamed Morsi’s overthrow, as the Islamist leader’s supporters and opponents readied rival rallies.
Under Secretary of State Bill Burns, the first senior US official to visit since the July 3 overthrow of Egypt’s first freely elected president, flew in as the military-installed caretaker government tightened the screws on Morsi’s backers, freezing the assets of 14 top Islamists.
Egypt’s new leaders are pushing ahead with a transition plan for an interim government and fresh elections, but Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood defiantly insists on his reinstatement.
In the Sinai Peninsula, three factory workers were killed in a rocket-propelled grenade attack, medics said, in the latest in a spate of deadly attacks since Morsi’s overthrow to hit the sensitive and increasingly lawless region bordering Israel.
In his talks with interim military and civilian leaders, Burns was to push for “an end to all violence and a transition leading to an inclusive, democratically elected civilian government,” the State Department said.
International concern is mounting over the continued detention of Morsi, who has been in custody since hours after the July 3 coup and was quizzed by prosecutors on Sunday over complaints of possible criminal offences.
Washington has still not decided whether he was the victim of a coup, which would legally require a freeze on some $1.5 billion in desperately needed US military and economic assistance to Cairo.
On Sunday, two influential US Republican senators, Lindsey Graham and John McCain, urged the administration to cut the aid in response to the coup.
The Brotherhood has refused to join the new government headed by caretaker prime minister Hazem al-Beblawi, who remains locked in talks on a cabinet line-up he says will be dominated by technocrats.
The ultra-conservative Islamist party Al-Nur also confirmed it will not join the interim government. Spokesman Nader Bakkar told AFP: “We wouldparticipate only in an elected government.”
Among the confirmed appointments is prominent liberal leader Mohamed ElBaradei, 71, who was sworn in on Sunday as interim vice president for foreign relations.
Beblawi is expected to unveil his full cabinet on Tuesday or Wednesday.
His priorities include restoring security and preparing for parliamentary and presidential elections, which interim president Adly Mansour has sidecould be held by early next year.
The assets freeze against nine senior Brotherhood figures is part of an investigation ordered by chief prosecutor Hisham Barakat.
Those targeted include its leader Mohamed Badie. Also hit are five Islamists from other groups, including ex-militant faction Gamaa Islamiya, which carried out a deadly 1997 attack on tourists in Luxor, judicial sources said.
The investigation relates to four deadly incidents since Morsi’s overthrow, including clashes outside an elite army headquarters in Cairo last Monday in which dozens of people, mostly Islamists, were killed.
The assets freeze comes a day after prosecutors received criminal complaints against Morsi, Badie and other senior Islamists, with a view to launching a formal investigation.
Ezzedine Choukri-Fishere, a professor of political science at the American University in Cairo, said hardliners among the Islamists and the security services were seeking to deepen divisions.
“(Deputy leader) Khairat El-Shater and others who have led the Muslim Brotherhood over the last few years have an interest in turning this into a radical confrontation… (as do) the hawks in the security services,” he told AFP.
“I suspect the majority of those in the new regime, like ElBaradei and Beblawi, want the Brotherhood to be a part of the new process, because it’s the only way to get transition right,” he added.
A Brotherhood spokesman vowed to continue “peaceful” protests until the reinstatement of Morsi, who interim leaders say is being held in a “safe place, for his own safety”.
“We have a noble goal, a just cause, for which we are prepared to sacrifice,” the spokesman, Ahmed Aref, told AFP.
Another Brotherhood official said protesters plan to march on the Republican Guards headquarters, scene of last Monday’s violence.
Counter-demonstrations by Morsi opponents are planned in Tahrir Square, epicentre of the 2011 uprising that ousted veteran strongman Hosni Mubarak, and at the Ittihadiya presidential palace.
During his single year of turbulent rule, Morsi was accused of concentrating power in Brotherhood hands, sending the economy into freefall and failing to protect minorities.
But his supporters say his overthrow was an affront to democracy.