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China Daily Website

Islamists call protest march as Egypt death toll mounts

Updated: 2013-08-15 21:45
( chinadaily.com.cn)


The latest crackdown was the third mass killing of Islamist demonstrators since Morsi was deposed six weeks ago, but the scale of the bloodshed took many by surprise and signalled that the military was determined to tighten its grip on the country.

The decision to forcibly clear sit-ins defied Western appeals for a negotiated settlement to the crisis, amid concerns that the country which signed a peace treaty with Israel and straddles the strategic Suez Canal could spiral out of control.

French President Francois Hollande summoned the Egyptian ambassador to demand an immediate halt to the crackdown.

"The head of state asserted that everything must be done to avoid civil war," the Elysee Palace said in a statement on Thursday. "Freeing prisoners, in respect of legal proceedings, could be a first step towards the resumption of talks."

In Ankara, Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan called for the U.N. Security Council to convene quickly and act after what he described as a massacre in Egypt.

"I am calling on Western countries. You remained silent in Gaza, you remained silent in Syria ... You are still silent on Egypt. So how come you talk about democracy, freedom, global values and human rights?" he told a news conference.

But the United Arab Emirates, one of several Gulf Arab states unsettled by Morsi's victory in a 2012 election, expressed support for the crackdown, saying the Egyptian government had "exercised maximum self-control".

At the site of one of the Cairo sit-ins, garbage collectors cleared still-smouldering piles of burnt tents on Thursday. Soldiers dismantled the stage at the heart of the protest camp. A burnt-out armoured vehicle stood abandoned in the street.

The Muslim Brotherhood said the true death toll was far higher, with a spokesman saying 3,000 people had been killed in a "massacre". It was impossible to verify the figures independently given the extent of the violence.

The state of emergency and curfew restored to the army powers of arrest and indefinite detention it held for decades under autocrat Hosni Mubarak, ousted in a 2011 popular uprising.

The army insists it does not seek power and acted last month to remove Morsi in response to mass demonstrations calling for his resignation.

It has installed an interim government to implement plans for fresh elections in around six months, but efforts to restore democracy have been overshadowed by a political crisis that has deeply divided Egyptians between pro- and anti-Morsi camps.

Vice President Mohamed ElBaradei, a Nobel Peace Prize winner who lent liberal political support to the ousting of Egypt's first freely elected president, resigned in dismay at the use of

force instead of a negotiated end to the six-week stand-off.

Other liberals and technocrats in the temporary government did not follow suit. Interim Prime Minister Hazem el-Beblawi spoke in a televised address of a "difficult day for Egypt" but said the government had no choice but to order the crackdown to prevent anarchy spreading.

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