Supporters of Egypt’s ousted President Mohamed Mursi fought with security forces and at least seven were killed, as persistent violence overshadowed the army-backed interim government’s effort to stabilize the nation.
The clashes, which were most intense in Cairo’s Ramsis Square, also left at least 261 wounded, according to the Health Ministry. Muslim Brotherhood partisans have held daily protests since Mursi’s July 3 ouster by the army, which came after hundreds of thousands rallied to demand his removal.
Yesterday’s unrest turned parts of central Cairo into a tear gas-scented, rock-strewn battleground on the day U.S. Deputy Secretary of State William Burns visited the city to urge dialogue. He said the U.S. is committed to helping Egypt with its “second chance” at democracy, without offering any “American solutions.”
The military-appointed prime minister-designate, Hazem El-Beblawi, has been wrapping up Cabinet appointments for a government which he told reporters could be sworn in as early as today. Mursi’s supporters are demanding that the nation’s first democratically elected civilian president be reinstated.
“There seems to be no leader as yet with the credibility to bring all sides of the country together,” Paul Sullivan, a specialist in Middle East security issues at Georgetown University in Washington, said in a phone interview. “If the parties do not start compromising, the gap will get wider to the point that it may be far too wide to mend.”
Clashes also broke out between Mursi supporters and opponents last night in the Nile delta city of Damanhour, the state-run Middle East News Agency said.
Tear gas spread across part of Cairo’s 6th of October Bridge above Ramsis Square after security forces tried to stop a pro-Mursi march by about 5,000 people. The demonstrators marched early today toward the presidential palace and a Republican Guards complex where dozens of Brotherhood supporters were killed in clashes with security forces last week.
The army warned that protests at military bases or installations, or attempts to attack them, will be met with “firmness and force.”
Burns, the highest ranking U.S. official to come to Cairo since Mursi’s removal, met Egyptian leaders including Defense Minister Abdelfatah Al-Seesi and interim President Adly Mansour. He said the transition process must be inclusive, indicating that the Muslim Brotherhood should play a part. He said the U.S. will “stand behind certain basic principles, not any particular personalities or parties.”
Egypt was a close U.S. ally under Hosni Mubarak, who was driven from power in February 2011 amid mass protests. The country has received billions of dollars of mostly military aid since the 1970s.
The ultra-conservative Salafist Nour party and the secularist Tamarod movement, which both supported the military’s overthrow of Mursi, refused to meet with Burns, according to the Middle East News Agency and Tamarod’s website.
Burns said Egypt has a chance to “renew its economy after a period during which many needs of the Egyptian people were not addressed.”
Egypt’s economy has been stuck in its worst slowdown in two decades since Mubarak’s fall, and failed to revive under Mursi. Unemployment is at a record high and foreign reserves are less than half their levels in December 2010. Persian Gulf countries have pledged $12 billion in aid since Mursi’s ouster.
Ashraf el-Arabi, the designated planning minister, said circumstances weren’t conducive to a new round of talks with the International Monetary Fund on Egypt’s bid for a $4.8 billion loan, according to MENA. The negotiations may be completed after a transitional period, he said.
The cost of protecting Egyptian debt against default for five years has tumbled 255 basis points since Mursi’s ouster to 670, according to data provider CMA. Yields on Egypt’s dollar bonds due in 2020, which surged above 10 percent in the days before and after the army intervention, have dropped to about 8.6 percent.
“The jury is still out on whether the government will be able to provide investors with the confidence that can allow the economy to stabilize,” Stephen Bailey-Smith, London-based emerging markets strategist at Standard Bank, said by phone.