CAIRO — U.S. and European diplomats extended their stay in Cairo to help defuse a political crisis triggered by the military’s ouster of President Mohammed Morsi that has left more than 200 dead.
The mediation by U.S. Deputy Secretary of State William Burns and European Union special envoy Bernardino Leon, along with Gulf Arab officials, reflects growing international concern over the political deadlock in Egypt.
Supporters of Morsi, the Islamist president toppled by the army on July 3, have refused to end street protests demanding his reinstatement, even as authorities threaten to disperse them. At least 130 Morsi supporters were killed by security forces in Cairo last month, and there have been clashes throughout the country.
The army-backed interim government has repeatedly warned that time is running out for the Islamist protesters to end their sit-ins, saying they are undermining efforts to restore stability and rebuild the economy.
Interim President Adly Mansour said on Aug. 4 that the protests can’t be allowed to go on for much longer. “If it’s possible to disperse it peacefully, we will do so,” he said. “If not, then the state can’t watch this happen with its hands tied.”
Vice President Mohamed ElBaradei, the Nobel laureate and onetime opposition leader, urged the Muslim Brotherhood to work toward a peaceful solution.
The Brotherhood shouldn’t count on manipulating the security forces into forcibly dispersing the sit-ins “so that a big massacre takes place, and so that you strengthen your position in negotiations,” ElBaradei said in an interview published in the independent al-Shorouk newspaper. “The trick will not work.”
Burns “continued his discussions with a wide range of Egyptians” in the past few days and will stay on for further talks, White House spokesman Jay Carney said Monday. He said the talks, which included meetings with jailed leaders of the Brotherhood, focused on how to “calm tensions, avoid further violence and facilitate an inclusive democratic process.”
U.S. Republican Senators John McCain of Arizona and Lindsay Graham of South Carolina are also in Cairo and are due to meet Mansour and army chief Abdelfatah al-Seesi, who led Morsi’s overthrow, the state-run Middle East News Agency said.
The political turmoil since Morsi’s fall threatens to extend an economic slump that his one-year administration failed to reverse. Gross domestic product has been growing at the slowest pace in two decades.
Stocks and bonds rebounded after the army takeover, which followed mass protests calling for Morsi’s departure, as the new administration pledged to make the economy its priority.
A loan agreement with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) will be an “essential” part of efforts to revive growth, Planning Minister Ashraf El-Arabi said in a phone interview Monday. He said the timing of a resumption of talks on a $4.8 billion loan, which have been repeatedly disrupted since 2011, is still under discussion.
The government said a day earlier it was told by Burns that the United States, the IMF’s largest shareholder, supports the resumption of talks.
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