Mursi seeks end to Egypt bloodshed



Associated Press

Published — Thursday 31 January 2013

Last update 2 February 2013 12:05 am

| نسخة PDF Print News | A A

CAIRO: A hard-line Islamist party normally allied to Egypt’s president joined the liberal opposition on Wednesday in calling for a national unity government as part of a plan aimed at ending the eruption of political violence that has shaken the country and left more than 60 dead the past week.
The unusual joint call puts further pressure on Islamist President Muhammad Mursi a day after the head of the armed forces warned that Egypt could collapse unless the country’s feuding political factions reconcile.
The warning by Gen. Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi was to both sides but was seen as an implicit criticism of Mursi, who has been unable to contain the unrest through an attempted firm hand. Mursi’s declaration of a month-long state of emergency and a curfew in three of the cities hardest hit by unrest has been overtly defied by the cities’ residents.
Seeking to build momentum from the military’s comments, Mohammed ElBaradei, head of the main liberal opposition National Salvation Front, called on Wednesday for a broad national dialogue grouping Mursi’s government, the Muslim Brotherhood, the ultraconservative Salafis and — in a nod to the generals’ role — the military.
The opposition has depicted the mayhem as a backlash against Islamists’ insistence on monopolizing power and as evidence that the Brotherhood and its allies are unable to manage the country on their own. The past week has seen protester attacks on police stations and government buildings, fierce clashes with security forces, shootings at protester funerals, cut-offs of railroads, mass marches and a virtual outright revolt in the Suez Canal city of Port Said —
Officials in the president’s office and the Brotherhood, in turn, have accused the opposition of condoning or even instigating violence in a bid to thwart Islamists’ repeated election victories. Mursi has invited the opposition to a dialogue, but the Front and most other parties refused, seeing his talks as window-dressing.
On Wednesday, the Salafi Al-Nour Party joined the Salvation Front in an initiative calling for a national unity government — effectively eroding the Muslim Brotherhood’s grip on decision-making — and for the amending of contentious articles of the Islamist-backed constitution.
For weeks, Mursi and the Brotherhood have ignored the Front’s repeated calls for a unity government. On Wednesday, Mursi dismissed the need for one, pointing out that a new government would be formed anyway after parliament elections expected in a few months. He downplayed the significance of the explosion of violence.
“What is happening now in Egypt is natural in nations experiencing a shift to democracy,” Mursi told reporters during a brief visit to Germany on Wednesday. “Nations take time to stabilize and in some countries that took many years. It has only been two years in Egypt and, God willing, things will stabilize soon.”
The unrest at home forced Mursi to truncate a planned visit to Europe, canceling a Paris leg and reducing his Berlin visit to a few hours to meet with Chancellor Angela Merkel, after which he was returning home.
Al-Nour and the Front make odd partners. Salafis in general have strongly backed Mursi in the crisis and regularly denounced the liberal and secular opposition, accusing them of trying to reverse Islamists’ election victories and of trying to prevent Egypt from being ruled by Shariah, or Islamic law. The party’s move may be aimed at distancing itself from Mursi’s Brotherhood ahead of the parliament elections.
After meeting with leaders from the Front, Al-Nour chief Younes Makhyoun said, “We are considered Islamists, and we are from the Islamic current but when we work for the sake of national reconciliation, we have to be neutral ... Egypt for all Egyptians.”
Egypt must not be ruled “by a single faction... but there must be a real partnership in decision-making and administration,” he told reporters.
Meanwhile, two more protesters were killed Wednesday when they were hit with birdshot during clashes with police near Cairo’s Tahrir Square, a security official said, as violence continued for the seventh day. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk to the press.
Violence has spiraled after first erupting in Cairo on eve of last Friday’s second anniversary of the uprising that toppled authoritarian president Hosni Mubarak. It since spread around the country, with the worst violence in the Suez Canal city of Port Said, which has virtually declared itself in revolt against Mursi’s government. Nile Delta provinces have also witnessed street clashes and riots in front of state institutions, but no deaths reported.
In response, Mursi declared a 30-day state of emergency and night curfew in Port Said and two other Canal cities, Suez and Ismailiya, and their surrounding provinces.
But every night since it went into effect, tens of thousands of residents in the city have defied the curfew with nighttime rallies and marches, chanting against Mursi and the Muslim Brotherhood, which forms the backbone of his rule.
Faced with the anger, Mursi authorized governors of the three provinces to either cancel or limit curfew hours. All three governments did so, reducing the curfew to four hours in Port Said, three hours in Ismailiya and six hours in Suez, down from seven hours.
Youth groups have called for mass rallies on Friday to march to the presidential palace in Cairo to demand an end to Mursi’s rule.
On Wednesday, security forces arrested five masked protesters suspected to belong to the Black Bloc, a group of protesters who wear masks and claim to “defend the revolution” against Islamists. The governments and state media have depicted them as dangerous thugs fueling violence against police and state institutions. Top prosecutor Talaat Abdullah ordered a day earlier that all members of the group be arrested on sight.
In a tweet, ElBaradei called for an immediate meeting between Mursi, the defense and interior ministers, the Brotherhood’s political party, Salafi parties and the National Salvation Front “to take urgent steps to stop the violence and start a serious dialogue.”
He said stopping the violence is the priority, but stuck by the front’s previous conditions for holding a dialogue — that Mursi form a national unity government and form a commission to amend contentious articles of the Islamist-backed constitution.
The joint initiative with Al-Nour calls for the replacement of the controversial top prosecutor, who was appointed by Mursi, and the “neutrality of state institutions” — a reference to accusations the Brotherhood and Salafis are trying to dominate national bodies. It also calls for a commission to amend contentious constitutional articles.
Al-Nour underwent a period of internal fighting that ended with election of new leader, after the party’s founder split and formed a new party. The party is the second biggest political force, securing a quarter of the seats in the lower house of parliament in elections in late 2011. The lower house was since disbanded by a court order and new elections are expected within a few months.
“Clearly there are real divisions within the Islamist bloc and they are not on the same page,” said Osama el-Ghazali Harb, member of the opposition and a political scientist. “Everyone feels that the situation is escalating and reaching a dangerous level. The country fracturing and there is violence everywhere.”

What's happening around Saudi Arabia

JEDDAH: The Kingdom and Namibia have signed a protocol to establish diplomatic relations between them.According to SPA, the protocol was signed on Tuesday by Saudi Arabia’s Permanent Representative at the United Nations Abdullah Al-Mouallimi and his...
JEDDAH: Official reports reveal nationalization levels of medical and health workers in the Kingdom remain low, with Saudi nationals making up only 21.7 percent of physicians, 31.8 percent of nurses, and 67.4 percent of ancillary staff.According to t...
JEDDAH: The Saudi Food and Drugs Authority (SFDA) will begin receiving clearance applications for medicines and medical supplies, including drugs containing narcotic or psychotropic substances, for Haj missions or other government bodies on Saturday....
JEDDAH: Saudi importers of cattle said the Haj season this year will not see an increase in the price of livestock due to the stability of the local market and the available supply.There are also guarantees from exporting countries that required quan...
JEDDAH: At the upcoming elections the national identity card will be the only approved document used for identifying voters of both genders and allowing voters to exercise their electoral right, provided all statutory requirements are met.In a press...
JEDDAH: Education Minister Azzam Al-Dakhil has spoken of a new education policy which emphasizes the importance of harmonizing admission policies in universities with the needs of the labor market.Al-Dakhil made these remarks during a meeting with un...
JEDDAH: Local bottled water consumption during the summer, Umrah and Haj seasons this year will increase by 10 percent.“This translates into an annual growth rate of between 4 percent and 5 percent,” Rashed Bin-Zouma, a water industry expert, was qu...
RIYADH: Four Saudi secondary students including a young woman from the Eastern Province have received prestigious medals at the 47th International Chemistry Olympiad (IChO), which concluded in Azerbaijan last week.The winners of the four bronze medal...
JEDDAH: The UAE’s decision to lift fuel subsidies beginning in August has raised the possibility of other Gulf states following suit.Economists suggest a wide disparity of prices of gasoline in the Gulf countries will lead to more petrol smuggling op...
DAMMAM: The tourism industry in the Kingdom is witnessing great interest by authorities to develop the archaeological areas, promote their support services and create the best environment for tourism products, said businessman Abdul Mohsen Al-Hokair....
JEDDAH: The ongoing World Circus at north Obhur has brought smiles on the faces of orphans, with its show of acrobats featuring 20 performers and clowns.The orphans of Al-Rawdah district charitable organization said they found the circus entertaining...
RIYADH: The Nepalese ambassador to Saudi Arabia, Udayaraj Pandey, thanked the Kingdom on Thursday as he ends his four-year tour of duty in Saudi Arabia.Earlier in the day, he called on Riyadh Gov. Prince Faisal bin Bandar to pay him a courtesy call a...
RIYADH: Movies produced by young and amateur Saudi filmmakers will be shown on Saudi Television starting in the middle of next week.“The films will be shown daily to encourage young Saudi filmmakers,” said Abdulaziz Fahad Al-Eid, senior broadcaster a...
RIYADH: The King Abdul Aziz City for Science and Technology (KACST) signed a memorandum of understanding on Thursday with the Saudi Electricity Co. (SEC) and Taqnia Energy to launch the first standalone 50MW solar power station at Al-Aflaj.KACST also...
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and Saudi Arabia’s permanent representative to the UN Abdullah Al- Muallami unveiled a beautifully framed old kiswa (covering) of the door of the Holy Kaaba at one of the newly refurbished halls of the world body. The...

Stay Connected

Facebook