Egypt offers safe passage to Mursi supporters

Updated 12 August 2013

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.”

Houthis mobilize to fight ahead of UN envoy’s visit

Pro-government drive in an industrial district in the eastern outskirts of the port city Hodeidah. (AFP)
Updated 45 min 23 sec ago

Houthis mobilize to fight ahead of UN envoy’s visit

  • Dozens of Houthis put on a show of strength on the outskirts of Sanaa on Saturday
  • UN special envoy Martin Griffiths said on Friday that he plans to travel to Sanaa in the coming week

SANAA: Iran-backed Houthi militias have said they are ready to mobilize more fighters to the frontline despite a lull in battleground Hodeidah, as the UN envoy prepares to visit the country to boost peace efforts.

Dozens of Houthis put on a show of strength on the outskirts of Sanaa on Saturday, apparently getting ready to head toward Hodeidah, a Red Sea city home to a vital port.

Men, some of whom looked very young, were lining up with bandoliers around their shoulders and rifles in their hands, chanting Houthi slogans.

Residents said on Sunday that relative calm had held in Hodeidah city since pro-government forces announced a pause in their offensive last week amid international calls for a cease-fire and UN-led peace efforts.  They added, however, that they remain on edge.

Meanwhile, coalition fighter jets on Sunday carried out a series of strikes targeting Houthi positions west of Marib. The strikes, which were accompanied by shelling, came after the Iranian-supported militia launched ballistic missiles toward the city of Marib. Coalition forces successfully intercepted the missiles, Yemeni army media said.

UN special envoy Martin Griffiths said on Friday that he plans to travel to Sanaa in the coming week to finalize arrangements for peace talks to take place in Sweden soon.

Hameed Assem, a member of the militia delegation expected to take part in the negotiations, said that Houthis will continue to mobilize if UN efforts for peace fail to materialize.

Pro-government forces on Wednesday suspended their 12-day offensive in Hodeidah.

Griffiths said on Friday that both the government and the Houthis have shown a “renewed commitment” to work on a political solution and have given “firm assurances” that they will attend the talks. No date has yet been set.