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Egypt's rulers to move against Brotherhood vigils

Agencies | Updated: 2013-08-01 07:33


The bloc's foreign policy chief, Catherine Ashton, spent two days in Cairo this week, becoming the first outsider to see Morsi when she was flown after dark by military helicopter to his secret place of confinement.

EU envoy Bernadino Leon was in the Egyptian capital on Wednesday to press the mediation effort, and German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle was due to hold talks there on Thursday.

Thousands of Brotherhood supporters are camped out behind volunteers they say are armed only with sticks and shields to keep order.

The interim government says the protesters have guns. The Brotherhood accuses security forces of whipping up trouble to justify a crackdown, and vowed to resist any attempt by the security forces to disperse the camps.

"They tried to do that twice and they failed," said spokesman Gehad El-Haddad. "They killed 200 protesters. Do they want to try that again?" The Brotherhood's allies called for a "million-man march" on Friday.

Almost 300 people have been killed in weeks of violence since the army deposed Morsi, fuelling fears in the West of a wider conflagration in Egypt, which straddles the Suez Canal and whose 1979 peace treaty with Israel makes it a vital factor in Middle East stability.

The United States, which supports the Egyptian military with $1.3 billion a year in aid, urged security forces to respect the right to peaceful assembly. Two senior Republican senators plan to travel to Cairo next week.

The Brotherhood has spurned an army "road map" to elections and what it promises will be a return to civilian rule.

Rights group Amnesty International called the cabinet decision to clear the camps "a recipe for further bloodshed" and a "seal of approval to further abuse."

Heba Morayef, Egypt director for Human Rights Watch, said: "They've set something in motion."

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