Egypt Islamist Calls for U.S. Embassy Siege Amid Unrest

A Muslim Brotherhood leader has called on Egyptians to lay siege to the U.S Embassy in Cairo to protest what he said was American support for the ouster of Islamist President Mohamed Mursi.

One person was killed and seven injured in clashes between Mursi’s supporters and opponents in Tahrir Square near the embassy and on a nearby bridge, state-run media reported yesterday, after Essam El-Erian told Muslim Brotherhood supporters that U.S. diplomats must leave Egypt without harm.

Daily protests by the deposed leader’s backers risk undermining the interim government’s plan to return to elected civilian rule. Violence at dawn today in Tahrir, the heart of the 2011 revolt that toppled Hosni Mubarak, and nearby Giza injured 19 people, the state-run Middle East News Agency reported, citing the health ministry.

In Washington, State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said the U.S. government was assessing the safety of American officials serving in Egypt. “We have taken steps and would take steps as needed if the situation warrants,” Psaki told reporters yesterday.

The U.S., which gives more than $1 billion a year to Egyptian military, hasn’t labeled the army’s July 3 removal of Mursi a coup, though it has called for a quick transition to democracy.

Embassy Security

U.S. officials, at President Barack Obama’s request, are clarifying whether Mursi’s removal was a coup, Psaki said, without offering a timetable for the review’s completion. U.S law requires ending aid to any county where the government has been toppled by a military coup. The U.S., Psaki reiterated, hasn’t “taken any side” in the country’s political standoff.

The embassy and all roads leading to it are totally secure and the government won’t let it be attacked, said Adel-Fattah Osman, assistant to the interior minister. Egyptian police had set up barriers around the compound before El-Erian spoke.

Mustapha Al-Sayyid, a professor of politics at Cairo University, predicted the Brotherhood probably will try to avoid violence. “It’s seeking the support of foreign governments, and violence will lead them to support the current interim government.”

The military, supported by secular-leaning political parties and youth groups, removed Mursi from power after days of mass rallies against his rule. Under the transition plan, constitutional court chief Adly Mansour was named interim president and the constitution drafted under Mursi is to be amended. Presidential and parliamentary elections are to follow.

Recurrent Fighting

Fighting has repeatedly broken out since Mursi’s ouster, killing dozens in Cairo and other cities, mostly Brotherhood supporters. In addition to the casualties in Cairo, two people were killed and seven injured in clashes yesterday in Qalyubia, 45 kilometers (28 miles) north of the capital.

Militants have also stepped up attacks in the Sinai peninsula, killing and injuring several soldiers and policemen.

The transition may have to be prolonged “until a deal is reached with the Muslim Brotherhood,” said Ziad Akl, a senior analyst at the Al Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies in Cairo.

“There’s no way the Muslim Brotherhood are not going to be part of Egypt’s political scene,” Akl said. “What they are doing now by the daily protests is trying to apply political pressure to enhance their position in negotiations.”

The tensions haven’t halted a rebound on financial markets since the army intervention. The EGX 30 stock index rose 0.6 percent yesterday, taking gains this month to 15 percent. The yield on Egypt’s $1 billion dollar bonds maturing in 2020 was little changed at 8.47 percent, more than 2 percentage points below their peak on the day Mursi was ousted.

Officials have begun working on amending the constitution that Mursi pushed through a referendum last year over the objection of opponents who said it favors Islamists and infringes on basic rights.

The April 6 movement, one of the groups that campaigned for Mursi’s ouster, said it will propose a “ban on religious parties,” according to an e-mailed statement.

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