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UN body to debate Egypt strife

Britain has called for an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council amid an international outcry over the bloodshed in Egypt.

The request for a closed session to discuss the crisis - which is thought to have claimed the lives of more than 600 people - has been made jointly with France and Australia.

Meanwhile, US president Barack Obama has cancelled a joint military exercise with Egypt following the authorities' crackdown on Muslim Brotherhood supporters. He said: "Our traditional co-operation cannot continue as usual."

The Egyptian ambassador to London has blamed supporters of ousted president Mohammed Morsi for the outbreak of violence in Cairo, suggesting the large death toll on Wednesday was partly due to reckless protesters killing each other.

Speaking at a press conference in central London, Ashraf El-Kholy said the police and army had been forced to shoot at demonstrators. "Of course they did nothing but return fire," he said. "If you have somebody firing at you then you have to respond."

Mr El-Kholy expressed his "deepest regret" at the loss of life, and referred to Sky News cameraman Mick Deane who was among three journalists killed on Wednesday.

"My deepest condolences to the family of Mr Deane, the British national who was doing his job in Cairo. And also my condolences to anyone else who lost their friends or brothers or relatives," he said.

Asked by one of Mr Deane's Sky News colleagues about eyewitness reports that he was shot during a period of relative calm by a sniper positioned in a government building, the ambassador said there were no snipers in the police.

Mr El-Kholy insisted the official death toll figure was also made up of people who had died in places outside Cairo. Among the dead were 42 members of the police and army, he said, and he also claimed that demonstrators had used children as human shields.

Mr El-Kholy was summoned to the Foreign Office on Wednesday so that officials could express "deep concern" at events. And in a statement on Thursday, a spokesman for the department said: "The UK, France and Australia have urgently requested a closed meeting of the UN Security Council."

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