Egypt defiant on aid after arrest of Islamist chief

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CAIRO: Egypt’s interim prime minister said on Tuesday (Wednesday in Manila) his country could live without aid from the United States as Washington and the European Union review ties with Cairo amid a bloody crackdown on supporters of deposed President Mohamed Morsi.

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A defiant Hazem al-Beblawi told ABC news his country was heading in the “right direction” and he did “not fear civil war” despite the death of more than 900 people in a military-led campaign against Morsi backers.

Earlier Tuesday, authorities detained the head of Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood, stoking fears of fresh violence between security forces and Islamists protesting at the former president’s July 3 ouster by the army.

An Egyptian court remanded Mohamed Badie in custody for 15 days on suspicion of inciting the murder of protesters, the first time since 1981 that a Brotherhood supreme guide has been arrested.

The political party of the Brotherhood, reeling from the imprisonment and death of hundreds of its members, moved swiftly to replace Badie with Mahmoud Ezzat, a hawkish deputy in the organization.

Two more Muslim Brotherhood officials—preacher Safwat Hegazy and Mourad Ali, a spokesman for the Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party, have been arrested overnight.

Meanwhile, in Washington, President Barack Obama huddled with top aides to review policy toward Egypt, traditionally a strong US ally in the Middle East.

The White House criticized Badie’s arrest, saying it was incompatible with the military’s pledge for an “inclusive political process” but denied reports it was halting its $1.3-billion annual aid package.

On Wednesday, foreign ministers from the European Union, which has pledged nearly 5 billion euros ($6.7 billion) in aid for 2012 to 2013, were set to meet in Brussels.

The EU was likely to stop short of pulling the plug, however, with one French diplomat saying that would “risk penalizing Egyptian people above all.”

“We can’t act as if nothing has happened, but at the same time we need to be careful not to be counter-productive,” said the official, who asked not to be named.

AFP

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