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Egypt puts off sit-in evictions

Egypt has postponed plans to disperse two Cairo sit-ins by supporters of the country's ousted president Mohammed Morsi, saying they wanted to "avoid bloodshed".

Meanwhile a judge ordered the deposed president, detained since July 3, should be held for 15 more days pending investigations into charges he conspired in 2011 with Palestinian militants.

The postponement announcement came as Morsi supporters held new rallies demanding his return to power, marching down a main boulevard at the heart of Cairo chanting anti-military slogans and waving the toppled president's picture.

At least temporarily, the delay is likely to defuse tensions that had spiked overnight, with the country bracing for a new bout of violence if the police move against protesters. Any moves by the police against them would have set the stage for deadly clashes with tens of thousands gathered at the two Cairo sit-ins in support of ex-president Mohammed Morsi, removed in a popularly supported coup on July 3.

An Egyptian security official, who did not want to be named, said the decision to postpone an advance against the protest camps by Muslim Brotherhood supporters came after a plan on ending the sit-ins was leaked to the media.

The security forces had planned to form cordons around the Cairo protest sites. The protesters have said they will not leave until Mr Morsi is reinstated.

Earlier Interior Ministry officials had said they were prepared for clashes that might be set off by the cordons and that ambulances were on hand to treat the wounded. A special force within the riot police trained for crowd dispersal was expected to deal with protesters.

Weeks of efforts by the international community to end the stand off and find a peaceful resolution have so far failed. Egypt's interim prime minister warned just ahead of the Muslim Eid al-Fitr holiday that ended on Sunday that the government's decision to clear the sit-ins was "irreversible."

Mr Morsi was deposed after millions of Egyptians took to the streets on June 30 and for four days demanded that he step down over what they saw as his failure to act as the president of all the people and his attempts to monopolise power and serve only his Muslim Brotherhood group's interests.

He has not been seen since the military deposed him, disbanded his Islamist-dominated parliament and suspended the constitution. He is held incommunicado, along with some of his aides, while several top Brotherhood leaders and their allies are detained on charges of instigating deadly violence.

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