Conciliatory tones in Egypt as envoys seek to avert bloodbath

CAIRO  (Reuters) – Egypt’s army-backed rulers and allies of its deposed Islamist president gave the first signs yesterday of a readiness to compromise, pressed by Western envoys trying to head off more bloodshed.

Faced with the threat of a crackdown on supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood, diplomacy appeared to pick up pace, a month to the day since Egypt’s army deposed President Mohamed Mursi and plunged the country into turmoil.

Recognising for the first time the strength of popular protest against his one-year rule, Mursi’s allies said yesterday they respected the demands of millions who took to the streets before his overthrow.

A spokesman said the Mursi camp, which has refused to abandon weeks of sit-in protests until he is reinstated, wanted a solution that would “respect all popular desires.”

They told envoys from the United States and the European Union that they reject any role in a political settlement for army chief General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, who led Mursi’s ouster, and want the constitution he suspended to be restored.

“I respect and hold in regard the demands of the masses that went out on June 30, but I will not build on the military coup,” spokesman Tarek El-Malt told Reuters, relaying what the pro-Mursi delegation had told the envoys.

Asked whether the delegation had insisted on Mursi’s reinstatement as part of any political deal, Malt, a member of the Brotherhood-affiliated Wasat party, said that was a detail for future discussion.

But given that Mursi’s opponents insist he should not be part of the political solution, Malt said then that “Sisi must also not be in the political equation.”

In an interview with the Washington Post, Sisi appeared to rule out running for president himself, despite his growing popularity among some of the 84 million-strong population.

“You just can’t believe that there are people who don’t aspire for authority,” Sisi told the interviewer when asked if he would stand for president. Asked “Is that you?” he replied: “Yes.” The Post said the interview was conducted on Thursday.

Egypt’s military has installed a transitional government and laid out a “road map” to elections in about six months. It promises a return to civilian government, having brought down the first freely elected president after 60 years of rule by military men.

The Brotherhood, an Islamist movement that spent decades in the shadows before winning power in elections after the 2011 fall of autocrat Hosni Mubarak, had spurned the road map.
But its supporters, camped out at two sites in Cairo, face the threat of being violently dispersed by security forces who shot dead 80 of them a week ago. Almost 300 people have been killed in political violence since Mursi’s overthrow, and much of the movement’s leadership is in custody.

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