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Egyptian police set up blockade at Brotherhood sit-in

Thousands of Morsi supporters at the camps had been preparing for a confrontation with security forces after a government warning this week that they should give up or face action.

Supporters of deposed Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi voice their grievances at the Rabaa Adawiya square where they are camping.
Supporters of deposed Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi voice their grievances at the Rabaa Adawiya square where they are camping.

CAIRO // Egyptian police formed a blockade on Friday at a Muslim Brotherhood protest camp set up by supporters of former president Mohammed Morsi, but held off from storming the site, according to state TV.

The move follows diplomatic efforts and international appeals to the new army-installed government to avoid further violence.

Thousands of Morsi supporters at the camps had been preparing for a confrontation with security forces after a government warning this week that they should give up or face action.

"The idea of storming the camp by force is one rejected by the interior ministry, but a blockade will be imposed in all the streets leading to Rabaa," a state TV security correspondent reported from outside the ministry.

He was referring to Rabaa Al Adawiya Mosque, the site of the biggest of two protests by the Brotherhood in Cairo.

Police fired tear gas to disperse Morsi supporters who the interior ministry accused of blocking traffic near a television production complex outside Cairo.

A ministry statement gave no details on the size of the protest or whether anyone had been hurt or detained.

Almost 300 people have died in political violence since Mr Morsi, an Islamist, was overthrown on July 3, including 80 of his supporters killed by security forces in clashes on July 27.

Mr Morsi, who became Egypt's first freely elected president in June last year, had faced weeks of demonstrations against his rule.

Many Egyptians were frustrated by his failure to tackle social and economic problems and feared he was leading the country towards stricter Islamist control.

Mr Morsi is now in custody at a secret location.

The Egyptian army chief, Abdel Fattah El Sisi, understands there must be a political solution to the crisis in Egypt, said the vice president, Mohamed ElBaradei, in an interview printed on Friday, adding that "the army is on the edge".

"He understands that there has to be a political solution. But of course he has a responsibility to protect the country in terms of security. And the army is on the edge," Mr ElBaradei told the Washington Post.

The interim government gained a seal of approval from the United States late on Thursday when the US secretary of state, John Kerry, said the army had been "restoring democracy" when it toppled Mr Morsi - Washington's strongest endorsement yet for the new leadership.

US efforts to avoid calling Mr Morsi's overthrow a "military coup" has left it open to charges of sending mixed messages about events in Egypt.

Mohamed Ali Bishr, a senior Brotherhood leader and a minister in Mr Morsi's former government, said the movement was disappointed by Mr Kerry's statement.

The head of the Egyptian Social Democratic Party, the party of the prime minister, said mediation by the US and European Union was crucial because the Islamists were not talking to other Egyptians.

Mohamed Abolghar also said he wanted to see a political agreement with the Brotherhood to avoid a forceful break-up of the protest camps.

"It should be handled very carefully, preferably it should come after a negotiation," he said.

The deal should guarantee the Brotherhood's peaceful participation in politics and lead to the release of detained leaders who had not committed any crimes, Mr Abolghar said.

Political sources said there had been intense debate within the cabinet on the wisdom of sending in the security forces to clear the protesters.

At the Rabaa Al Adawiya camp on Friday morning, before the blockade announcement, young men wearing crash helmets and brandishing sticks stood guard behind barricades of sandbags and bricks. Blood from last Saturday's shooting stained the ground.

"We are here with our wives and children. We don't want violence," said Ali El Shishtawi, a government employee. "We're not afraid. We're not terrorists like they say."

 

Reuters