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Mursi cancels Paris visit amid crisis at home

CAIRO/BERLIN: Egyptian President Muhammad Mursi flew to Germany yesterday to try to convince Europe of his democratic credentials.
Meanwhile, two more protesters were shot dead before dawn near Cairo’s central Tahrir Square on the seventh day of what has become the deadliest wave of unrest since Mursi took power.
The Egyptian army chief warned on Tuesday that the state was on the brink of collapse if Mursi’s opponents and supporters did not end street battles that have marked the two-year anniversary of the revolt that toppled Hosni Mubarak.
Because of the crisis, Mursi has curtailed his European visit, canceling plans to go to Paris after Berlin.
Near Tahrir Square yesterday, dozens of protesters threw stones at police who fired back teargas, although the scuffles were brief.
Opposition politician Mohamed ElBaradei called for a meeting between the president, government ministers, the ruling party and the opposition to halt the violence. But he also restated the opposition’s precondition that Mursi first commit to seeking a national unity government, which the president has so far rejected.
Mursi’s critics accuse him of keeping too much power in his own hands and those of his Muslim Brotherhood, the party banned under Mubarak, which won repeated elections since the 2011 uprising.
Mursi’s supporters say the protesters want to overthrow Egypt’s first democratically elected leader. The unrest has prevented a return to stability ahead of parliamentary elections due within months, and worsened an economic crisis that has seen the pound currency tumble in recent weeks.
The worst violence has been in the Suez Canal city of Port Said, where rage was fueled by death sentences passed against soccer fans for deadly riots last year. Mursi responded by announcing on Sunday a month-long state of emergency and curfew in Port Said and two other Suez Canal cities.
Protesters have ignored the curfew and returned to the streets. Human Rights Watch called for Mursi to lift the decree.
Mursi will be keen to allay the West’s fears over the future of the most populous Arab country when he meets German Chancellor Angela Merkel and powerful industry groups in Berlin.
“We have seen worrying images in recent days, images of violence and destruction, and I appeal to both sides to engage in dialogue,” German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle said in a radio interview yesterday ahead of Mursi’s arrival.
Germany’s “offer to help with Egypt’s transformation clearly depends on it sticking to democratic reforms”, he added.

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