Egypt PM: Decision to break up sit-in final
Cairo, August 7, 2013
Egypt's interim prime minister said on Wednesday the government had not retreated from its decision to break up two Cairo sit-ins by supporters of deposed President Mohamed Mursi and its patience had nearly expired.
Thousands of supporters of Mursi, who was toppled by the army on July 3, have been staging protest sit-ins in two areas of Cairo for the last five weeks to demand his reinstatement.
Hazem el-Beblawi, speaking in a televised statement, said the decision to break-up the protest camps was final.
The protesters had "broken all the limits of peacefulness", he said, listing crimes including incitement of violence, the use of weapons, blocking roads and detaining citizens.
"The government's patience to bear this is nearly expired," he said. Any use of weapons against policemen or citizens would "be confronted with utmost force and decisiveness," he said.
"We ask them now again, once again, to quickly leave to their homes and their jobs," he said, adding that those whose hands "were not sullied with blood" would not face legal action.
Earlier, Egypt's presidency said diplomatic efforts to end the country's political turmoil had failed and warned that the Muslim Brotherhood would be held responsible for the consequences.
In a statement, interim President Adly Mansour's office said the period of international efforts that began more than 10 days ago had "ended today".
The state held the Muslim Brotherhood completely responsible for "the failure of these efforts and the later events and developments that might result from this failure related to breaches of the law and endangering civil peace", it added.
The breakdown raised the prospect of heightened instability and bloodshed in the largest Arab state which has a peace treaty with Israel and controls the strategically vital Suez Canal.
Almost 300 people have been killed in political violence since the overthrow, including 80 shot dead by security forces in a single incident on July 27.
Envoys from the United States, European Union, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates have been trying to defuse the crisis and prevent further bloodshed.
The presidency statement said the government had allowed the envoys "to visit and discuss" the situation, including with jailed Muslim Brotherhood leaders.
The aim was to urge the Brotherhood to "respect the will of the people" who had protested to demand an end to Mursi's rule. "These efforts did not achieve the hoped-for success, despite the complete support the Egyptian government offered," said the presidency.
There was no immediate reaction from the pro-Mursi camp.
Mohamed Ali Bishr, a senior Brotherhood leader who has represented the group in the recent talks with diplomats, told Reuters he needed time to confer with other Brotherhood members before responding to the presidency's statement.
The senior US diplomat involved in the mediation effort left Egypt on Wednesday, Cairo airport officials said shortly after the government declared diplomatic efforts had failed.
US Deputy Secretary of State William Burns had held talks with both the government and members of the Muslim Brotherhood during the mediation effort, together with European Union envoy Bernardino Leon and the Qatari and UAE foreign ministers.
In another development, Egypt's leading Islamic authority Al-Azhar will call a meeting on the country's crisis next week, the state news agency reported.
Al-Azhar would call for "an important meeting" after the Eid el-Fitr holiday, the Mena news agency reported. It would invite people who had proposed initiatives for ending the crisis, Mena said, citing an Al-Azhar official. "There are some initiatives that can be built upon to start national reconciliation," the official said.
The meeting would be held in the presence of Sheikh Ahmed Al-Tayeb, the Grand Sheikh of the 1,000-year old institution. - Reuters