Belfast Telegraph

Tuesday 23 December 2014

'Clock ticking' on Egypt protests

Supporters of Egypt's ousted President Mohammed Morsi hold a large Egyptian national flag as chant slogans (AP)
Supporters of Egypt's ousted President Mohammed Morsi hold a large Egyptian national flag as chant slogans (AP)

Egypt's highest security body has warned that the clock is ticking for a peaceful end to the stand-off over sit-ins by ousted President Mohammed Morsi's supporters, suggesting that authorities will break up the vigils unless mediation efforts produce results soon.

More than a month after the military overthrew Mr Morsi, tens of thousands of the Islamist leader's supporters remain camped out in two main crossroads in Cairo demanding his reinstatement. Egypt's military-backed interim leadership has issued a string of warnings for them to disperse or security forces will move in, setting the stage for a potential bloody showdown.

Authorities also announced a court case accusing the spiritual leader of the Muslim Brotherhood and his powerful deputy of inciting murder will start August 25. Mr Morsi hails from the Brotherhood.

The US and EU are trying to find a peaceful resolution to the stand-off to avoid a repeat of deadly street violence that has killed more than 250 people - at least 130 of which were pro-Morsi protesters shot dead by security forces in two bloody clashes - since the July 3 military coup.

A senior US official stayed on in Cairo for an extra day today to hold another round of talks with officials on both sides of the political divide. While diplomats raced to find a compromise, the Egyptian interim government signalled that its patience with the pro-Morsi camp was running out.

The National Defence Council, which is led by the interim president and includes top Cabinet ministers, said the search for a peaceful resolution is not open-ended. The council said a negotiated resolution also would not shield what it called "law-breakers" and others who incite against the state from legal proceedings.

It said a chance should be given to all "negotiations and mediations" that could end the protests without bloodshed, but that the timeframe should be "defined and limited and ... not infringe on the law and the rights of citizens." It also called on the protesters to abandon the sit-ins and join the political road map announced the day of Mr Morsi's overthrow.

With the Islamist-backed constitution adopted last year suspended and the legislature dominated by Mr Morsi's supporters dissolved, the road map provides for a new or an amended constitution to be put to a national referendum later this year and presidential and parliamentary elections early in 2014

In a move that underlined the government's resolve in dealing with the protests - now in their second month - Egyptian authorities denied Yemen's Nobel Peace Prize winner Tawakkul Karman entry into Egypt after she landed at Cairo airport.

Ms Karman, the first Arab woman to win the Nobel Peace prize, has stated her opposition to Egypt's military coup and said she had intended to join the pro-Morsi sit-in protests. Airport officials said she was sent back on the flight that brought her to Cairo from the United Arab Emirates. They did not say why she was denied entry, only that her name had been placed on a list.

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