Mursi cancels Paris visit amid crisis at home

Updated 31 January 2013
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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.


Iran confirms ‘recent’ missile test amid Western criticism

Updated 20 min 5 sec ago
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Iran confirms ‘recent’ missile test amid Western criticism

  • Iran has pressed on with its ballistic missile programme after reining in much of its nuclear programme under a 2015 deal with major powers
  • Iran has developed several types of ballistic missiles with a range of up to 3,000 kilometres

TEHRAN: Iran confirmed on Tuesday that it had carried out a recent test of a medium-range ballistic missile after Western powers sharply criticised a December 1 launch.
"We are continuing our missile tests and this recent one was a significant test," the Fars news agency reported, citing Revolutionary Guards aerospace commander Brigadier General Amirali Hajizadeh.
"The US reaction showed that it was a big thing for them and that it upset them," the conservative news agency said, adding that Iran carried out between 40 and 50 missile tests a year.
Iran has pressed on with its ballistic missile programme after reining in much of its nuclear programme under a 2015 deal with major powers.
A UN Security Council resolution adopted after the agreement calls on Iran to refrain from testing missiles capable of carrying a nuclear weapon, but does not specifically bar Tehran from missile launches.
The UN Security Council convened at the request of Britain and France on December 4 to discuss the latest test which both governments described as "provocative" and "inconsistent" with Resolution 2231.
Britain said that the types of missiles fired had capabilities that "go way beyond legitimate defensive needs".
Iran has developed several types of ballistic missiles with a range of up to 3,000 kilometres (1,875 miles) -- sufficient to reach Israel and Western bases across the region.
In its report, Fars did not specify the date of the latest test or say which types of missile were fired.
Washington, which quit the nuclear deal in May, described the test as an outright "violation" of Resolution 2231 and called on the Security Council to condemn it.
But veto-wielding Moscow has defended Tehran's right to carry out the missile tests, and the December 4 meeting ended with no joint statement or any plan for follow-up action.
The council is due to meet again on December 19 for a regular review of the resolution's implementation.
Iran has received regular certifications of compliance with the provisions of the nuclear deal from the UN atomic watchdog.
Western criticism has focused instead on Tehran's missile programme and its military interventions in the region.