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Egypt Spurns Outside Pressure as Envoys Continue Efforts

Egypt Decries Foreign Pressure Amid Diplomacy to End Crisis
T-shirts bearing portraits of deposed Egyptian President Mohamed Mursi are put on display outside a tent during a sit-in near the Rabaa al-Adawiya mosque in Cairo on August 4, 2013. Photographer: Khaled Desouki/AFP via Getty Images

Egypt denounced interference from other nations as visiting U.S. and European diplomats persisted in efforts to broker an end to the crisis triggered by the military’s ouster of President Mohamed Mursi.

“Foreign pressure has exceeded international norms, and Egypt is capable of protecting the revolution and the state,” Ahmed El-Meslemani, media adviser to interim President Adly Mansour, said in a statement.

Within hours of the comments, U.S. Senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham reiterated western calls for reconciliation among Egypt’s rival factions, at a news briefing in Cairo yesterday.

“We have urged the release of political prisoners,” said McCain, an Arizona Republican. “We have urged a national dialogue that is inclusive of all parties that renounce the use of violence. We have strongly urged a set timetable for amendment of the constitution, elections for the parliament, followed by elections for the presidency.”

Supporters of Mursi, the Islamist leader toppled on July 3, have continued street protests demanding his reinstatement, even as authorities call on them to disperse. At least 130 Mursi backers were killed by security forces in Cairo last month amid clashes across the country.

Alexandria Death

Later yesterday, at least one person died and as many as 27 were injured as Mursi supporters confronted army backers in Alexandria, Egypt’s second-largest city, according to local news reports. The state-run Ahram Gate website said one person died and five were injured, citing local hospital officials, while the Al Arabiya satellite channel said 27 were injured in a messsage posted on its Twitter Inc. web page.

U.S. Deputy Secretary of State William Burns and European Union special envoy Bernardino Leon also were in Cairo along with Gulf Arab officials for a diplomatic push that reflects growing international concern over the political deadlock.

The army-backed interim government has repeatedly warned that time is running out for the Islamist protesters to end their sit-ins, saying they are undermining efforts to restore stability and rebuild the economy.

Mansour said on Aug. 4 that the protests can’t be allowed to go on for much longer. “If it’s possible to disperse it peacefully, we will do so,” he said. “If not, then the state can’t watch this happen with its hands tied.”

Brotherhood’s Terms

The National Coalition for Legitimacy, an Islamist group made up of the Muslim Brotherhood and other Mursi supporters, said any measures to ease the crisis should begin with reinstating the deposed president and revoking the suspension of the constitution.

The group also called for the release of political detainees and an urgent investigation into “massacres” of peaceful demonstrators, in a statement yesterday. Some Islamist leaders were arrested on charges of inciting violence following Mursi’s ouster.

Vice President Mohamed ElBaradei, the Nobel laureate and onetime opposition leader, urged the Muslim Brotherhood to work toward a peaceful solution. The Brotherhood shouldn’t count on manipulating the security forces into forcibly dispersing the sit-ins “so that a big massacre takes place, and so that you strengthen your position in negotiations,” ElBaradei said in an interview published in the independent al-Shorouk newspaper. “The trick will not work.”

The political turmoil since Mursi’s fall threatens to extend an economic slump that his one-year administration failed to reverse. Since the start of last year, the nation’s gross domestic product, the broadest measure of performance, has grown at the slowest pace in two decades.

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