A Muslim Brotherhood leader is calling on Egyptians to lay siege to the U.S Embassy in Cairo to protest what he said was American support for the ouster of Islamist President Mohamed Mursi.
U.S. diplomats should leave Egypt, Essam El-Erian told Brotherhood supporters yesterday in Cairo’s Nasr City suburb, where they’ve been staging a sit-in since Mursi’s July 3 removal by the army. He said he hoped they wouldn’t be harmed. The U.S., which gives more than $1 billion a year to the Egyptian military, hasn’t labeled the army’s intervention as a coup, though it has called for a quick transition to democracy.
One person was killed and seven injured yesterday during clashes between Mursi supporters and opponents in Tahrir Square in Cairo, state television reported. Pro-Mursi demonstrators also fought with opponents near the Defense Ministry, the state- run Middle East News Agency reported.
Daily protests by the deposed leader’s supporters risk undermining the army-installed government’s plan for a transition back to elected civilian rule. That plan got under way July 21 with the first meeting of a panel charged with amending the constitution drawn up under Mursi and approved in a referendum in December.
Even before El-Erian’s remarks, Egyptian police had set up barriers around the U.S. Embassy in central Cairo. The compound was the scene of fighting between demonstrators and police in September, shortly before the American ambassador to Libya and three fellow nationals were killed in an attack on the consulate in Benghazi.
The embassy and all roads leading to it are totally secure and the government won’t allow it to be attacked, said Adel- Fattah Osman, assistant to the interior minister. Calls to the embassy’s media department yesterday weren’t answered.
The protest there may be a “calculated escalation” and the Brotherhood will probably try to avoid violence, said Mustapha Al-Sayyid, a professor of politics at Cairo University. “It’s seeking the support of foreign governments, and violence will lead them to support the current interim government.”
In Washington, State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said yesterday that the U.S. government was assessing the safety of American officials serving in Egypt.
“We have taken steps and would take steps as needed if the situation warrants,” Psaki told reporters during a briefing.
The U.S. is still conducting a review requested by President Barack Obama into whether Mursi’s removal was a coup, Psaki said, without offering a timetable for its completion. U.S law requires ending aid to any county where the government has been toppled by a military coup.
The military intervention against Mursi followed days of mass rallies against his rule. Fighting has repeatedly broken out since then, leaving dozens dead in Cairo and other cities, mostly Brotherhood supporters. There have also been intensified attacks by militants in the Sinai peninsula, where several soldiers and policemen have been killed and injured.
Yesterday, two people were killed and seven injured in clashes yesterday in Qalyubia, about 45 kilometers (28 miles) north of Cairo, MENA reported, citing health department officials.
The transition may have to be prolonged “until a deal is reached with the Muslim Brotherhood,” said Ziad Akl, a senior analyst at the Al Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies in Cairo.
Psaki yesterday reiterated a U.S. call for an “inclusive process” in returning Egypt to civilian elected government and said that the U.S. hasn’t “taken any side” in the country’s political standoff.
The tensions haven’t halted a rebound on financial markets since the army intervention. The EGX 30 stock index rose for a second day yesterday, gaining 0.6 percent. Yields on Egypt’s dollar bonds maturing in 2020 fell to 8.44 percent, more than 2 percentage points below their peak on the day Mursi was ousted.
Mursi pushed a constitution through a referendum last year, ignoring opponents who said the document favors Islamists and infringes on basic rights. Under the road map announced by interim President Adly Mansour, amendments will be drafted by representative panels, which will consider proposals from various political groups, then submitted to a referendum. That will be followed by presidential and parliamentary votes.
The April 6 movement, one of the groups that campaigned for Mursi’s ouster, said it will propose a “ban on religious parties,” according to an e-mailed statement. The clause was included in a charter passed under Hosni Mubarak, who persecuted Islamists during his three-decade rule that was ended by the 2011 uprising.
“There’s no way the Muslim Brotherhood are not going to be part of Egypt’s political scene,” Akl said. “What they are doing now by the daily protests is trying to apply political pressure to enhance their position in negotiations.”
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