A senior US official was in Cairo yesterday to press for a return to elected government following former Egyptian president Mohamed Morsi’s overthrow, as the Islamist leader’s supporters and opponents readied rival rallies.
US Deputy Secretary of State William Burns, the first senior US official to visit since the July 3 overthrow of Egypt’s first freely elected president, flew in as the military-installed caretaker government tightened the screws on Morsi’s backers, freezing the assets of 14 top Islamists.
Egypt’s new leaders are pushing ahead with a transition plan for an interim government and fresh elections, but Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood movement defiantly insists on his reinstatement.
In the Sinai Peninsula, three factory workers were killed in a rocket-propelled grenade attack, medics said, in the latest in a spate of deadly attacks since Morsi’s overthrow to hit the sensitive and increasingly lawless region bordering Israel.
In the talks with the interim leaders, Burns was to push for “an end to all violence and a transition leading to an inclusive, democratically elected civilian government,” the US Department of State said.
International concern is mounting over the continued detention of Morsi, who has been in custody since hours after the July 3 coup and was quizzed by prosecutors on Sunday over possible criminal offenses.
Washington has still not decided whether he was the victim of a coup, which would legally require a freeze on about US$1.5 billion in desperately needed US military and economic assistance to Cairo.
On Sunday, two influential US Republican senators, Lindsey Graham and John McCain, urged the US administration to cut the aid in response to the coup.
The Brotherhood has refused to join the new government headed by Interim Egyptian Prime Minister Hazem al-Beblawi, who remains locked in talks on a Cabinet line-up he says will be dominated by technocrats.
The ultra-conservative Islamist al-Nur Party also confirmed it will not join the interim government.
Beblawi is expected to unveil his full Cabinet today or tomorrow.