Jordan King First Head of State to Visit New Egypt Leaders

Saturday, 20 Jul 2013 09:47 AM


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CAIRO — Jordan's king on Saturday became the first head of state to visit Egypt since the army ousted its Islamist president, whose supporters pressed protests after a night of deadly clashes.

King Abdullah II, who faces challenges at home from Islamists, was among the first leaders to congratulate Egyptians after the military overthrew president Mohammed Morsi in a popularly backed coup on July 3.

The monarch was greeted at Cairo airport by the army-backed interim prime minister Hazem al-Beblawi, said Egypt's official MENA news agency.

He is likely to discuss the Middle East peace process, but his visit may also be aimed at conferring legitimacy on the newly installed regime which is fighting a public relations war to burnish its credibility.

The Jordanian leader's arrival came as thousands of supporters of the deposed Islamist president continued a sit-in at Cairo's Rabaa al-Adawiya mosque, waving Egyptian flags and carrying portraits of the toppled leader.

The Islamists had rallied in the tens of thousands on Friday, with some protests turning violent. Three people were killed in the Nile Delta city of Mansura, a hospital official said.

The protests, dubbed "Breaking the Coup" by Morsi's Muslim Brotherhood, came three days after interim president Adly Mansour swore in a caretaker cabinet, whose legitimacy the Islamists have categorically rejected.

The cabinet has faced a mixed international reaction. The African Union has suspended Egypt's membership, while some Gulf countries that distrusted Morsi have pledged billions of dollars in aid.

Britain announced it was revoking export licenses for equipment used by Egypt's military and police amid concerns it could be used against protesters.

The country's new foreign minister, Nabil Fahmy, said on Saturday he would prioritize "defending the revolution abroad."

The ministry would "form a committee to follow what is published about the revolution abroad and to provide sound information," Fahmy told a news conference.

Egypt also sent an envoy to African states to convince them Morsi had been removed by a popular revolution, he added.

The foreign minister also sounded a more cautious note in dealing with the Syrian crisis, after Morsi had solidly backed increasingly Islamist-led rebel fighters.

Morsi's decision to cut diplomatic ties with war-torn Syria would be "re-examined," Fahmy said, while stressing that did not mean they would "resume or not resume."

"There is no intention of jihad in Syria," he added, in reference to calls for a holy war in Syria under Morsi's presidency.

The Egyptian minister did not address Morsi's fate, after European and U.S. calls for the new government to release him from detention.

On Thursday, interim president Mansour had warned his opponents against steering Egypt into "the unknown," saying he would fight for stability.

But Morsi's supporters believe a sustained campaign of protests could persuade the military to restore him briefly ahead of general elections.

A vast crowd had gathered at the Rabaa al-Adawiya mosque on Friday, where Morsi loyalists have camped out since the week before the military overthrew him.

The deposed Islamist president has been held in custody since his overthrow, while the authorities has also detained other senior Brotherhood leaders and frozen their assets, prompting international concerns.

UN rights chief Navi Pillay summoned the Egyptian ambassador in Geneva and requested information about those arrested in connection with the events since the July 3 coup, her spokesman said on Friday.

Although mostly peaceful, the pro-Morsi protests have resulted in deadly clashes, with the unrest claiming more than 100 lives in all, according to an AFP tally.

In the worst bloodshed, at least 53 people, mostly Morsi supporters, were killed outside the Cairo headquarters of the Republican Guard on July 8.

The Brotherhood accuses the army of committing a "massacre," while the military says it was responding to a "terrorist" attack.

Demonstrations by those celebrating Morsi's ouster have been far smaller than the mass rallies that swept the country in the days leading up to the coup.

The United States has refrained from saying Morsi was the victim of a coup, which would legally require Washington to freeze some $1.5 billion in U.S. military and economic aid to Cairo.

© AFP 2014

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