Egypt offers safe passage to Mursi supporters

Updated 12 August 2013
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Egypt offers safe passage to Mursi supporters

CAIRO: Egypt’s interior ministry on Thursday promised Muhammad Mursi’s supporters “safe exit” if they quickly leave their Cairo protest camps, as police prepared to disperse them amid international appeals for restraint.
The call to disperse, which came after police commanders discussed how to carry out orders from the military-installed interim government to end the protests, was immediately rejected by the demonstrators.
Diplomatic efforts to avoid further bloodshed picked up pace, with EU Middle East envoy Bernardino Leon and German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle both arriving in Cairo to urge the rival camps to find common ground.
An interior ministry statement called “on those in Rabaa Al-Adawiya and Nahda squares to let reason and the national interest prevail, and to quicky leave.”
The ministry “pledges a safe exit and full protection to whoever responds to this appeal,” the statement added.
But Allaa Mostafa, a spokeswoman for the Anti Coup Alliance organizing demonstrations demanding the reinstatement of the deposed Islamist president, told AFP “we are going to continue our peaceful sit-ins and our peaceful protests.”
Ministers had ordered police to end sit-ins and marches by Mursi’s Islamist supporters, saying they amounted to a “national security threat.”
The orders raised fears of new violence, less than a week after 82 people were killed in clashes at a pro-Mursi rally in Cairo.
The international community, which has expressed mounting concern over the violence since Mursi’s July 3 ouster, warned against further bloodshed.
The German foreign minister, who arrived in Cairo on Wednesday, urged both sides to remain peaceful and seek an inclusive solution.
“I am here to encourage all political forces to engage in dialogue,” he said at a press conference on Thursday with his Egyptian counterpart, Nabil Fahmy.
Later, he was scheduled to meet interim president Adly Mansour and representatives of Mursi’s Muslim Brotherhood and other political parties.
EU envoy Leon also landed in Cairo on Wednesday, to follow up on three days of intensive diplomacy by the bloc’s foreign policy chief, Catherine Ashton.
The US State Department called on the interim authorities to “respect the right of peaceful assemblies.”
“That obviously includes sit-ins,” spokeswoman Marie Harf told reporters.
British Foreign Secretary William Hague called for “an urgent end to the current bloodshed” and the release of Mursi, in a phone call to interim vice president Mohamed ElBaradei, the Foreign Office said.
And Amnesty International condemned the cabinet order as a “recipe for further bloodshed.”
In Rabaa Al-Adawiya, the mood was calm after the cabinet’s announcement. Thousands of protesters have been camped out in a tent city at the square.
The interior ministry had already warned that the demonstrations would be dispersed “soon,” but without saying when or how.
Foreign trade minister Munir Fakhry Abdel Nur said Wednesday’s statement did not “give room for interpretation.”
Accusing Mursi supporters of bearing arms, he told AFP: “It is clear the interior ministry has been given the green light to take the necessary measures within legal bounds.”
The interim government also faces an increase in militant attacks in the restive Sinai peninsula, where gunmen on Thursday shot dead a policeman in the northern town of El-Arish, security officials said.
Much of the Egyptian media expressed support for the government’s decision, with some saying the interim administration had received “the people’s mandate” in demonstrations last Friday backing Mursi’s overthrow.
More than 250 people have been killed since the army ousted him following nationwide protests against his single year in power.
Further raising tensions on Wednesday, judicial sources said several top Brotherhood leaders would be referred to trial for incitement to murder.
Supreme guide Mohamed Badie, who is in hiding, and his jailed deputies Khairat Al-Shater and Rashad Bayoumi, stand accused of inciting the killing of demonstrators outside Brotherhood headquarters on the night of June 30.
Mursi himself has been formally remanded in custody on suspicion of offenses when he broke out of prison during the 2011 revolt that toppled president Hosni Mubarak.
He was detained hours after the coup and is being held at an undisclosed location, where the EU foreign policy chief met him on Tuesday, later telling reporters he was “well.”


Iran must stop supporting militias for peace offer to be taken seriously: Expert 

Updated 17 min 16 sec ago
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Iran must stop supporting militias for peace offer to be taken seriously: Expert 

  • Iran has for long pursued a policy of outsourcing its meddling to external militias
  • Among these are the Hezbollah in Lebanon and the Houthis in Yemen

JEDDAH: Iran needs to dismantle its proxies and end its interventions in Arab affairs before seeking to normalize relations with its Gulf neighbors, a political expert told Arab News on Sunday.

“The Gulf countries have been calling for normal relations with their neighbors for years, but their calls have fallen on deaf ears on the Iranian side,” Hamdan Al-Shehri, a political analyst and international relations scholar, said.

Accusing Tehran of “playing games,” Al-Shehri described Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif’s suggestion that Iran wanted to improve relations with its Gulf neighbors as worthless “as long as it continues meddling in the affairs of other countries, and fails to halt its evil militias from sabotaging and destabilizing regional security.”

Iran has for long pursued a policy of outsourcing its meddling to external militias, which indirectly supports, such as Hezbollah in Lebanon and the Houthis in Yemen. 

Zarif, who is on a two-day visit to Iraq, told a joint news conference in Baghdad with his Iraqi counterpart Mohammed Al-Hakim that Iran wants to build balanced relations with its Gulf Arab neighbors and had proposed signing a non-aggression pact with them.

However, Al-Shehri said that Tehran needs to address three key issues — its nuclear program; its terrorist militias, which have been spreading chaos in the Gulf region and beyond; and its ballistic missile program — before making any such proposals.

“The question is, would Iran be ready to give up all three files? If they want their neighbors to accept them and normalize relations with them, they have to be honest and stop playing games,” he said.

Al-Shehri described Zarif’s regional tour as an attempt to rally support and send a false message that Iran has friends and allies who would stand by them in their crisis with the US.

“Where were these countries when Iran’s terrorist proxies in Yemen, the Houthi militias, launched missiles and drones attacking the holiest Islamic site in Makkah and other Saudi facilities?” Al-Shehri asked.

Zarif said Iran will defend itself against any military or economic aggression, calling on European states to do more to preserve a nuclear agreement his country signed.

“We will defend (ourselves) against any war efforts, whether it be an economic war or a military one, and we will face these efforts with strength,” he said.

Strains have increased between Iran and the US following this month’s sabotage attack on oil tankers in the Gulf. Washington and other regional allies have concluded that Iran is most likely behind the attacks. 

Tehran has distanced itself from the bombings, but the US has sent an aircraft carrier and extra 1,500 troops to the Gulf, sparking concerns over the risk of conflict in the volatile region.