EU’s Ashton seeks Morsi’s release

July 18, 2013 7:45 pm
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Egyptian vice president for foreign relations Mohamed ElBaradei meets with European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton in Cairo on Wednesday (Thursday in Manila). AFP PHOTO

CAIRO: Visiting European Union (EU) foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton on Wednesday (Thursday in Manila) urged Egypt’s interim leaders to free Mohamed Morsi, as supporters of the ousted Islamist president rallied against the new government.

Speaking in Amman, United States (US) Secretary of State John Kerry said it was “much too early” to judge the future course of the Arab world’s most populous nation and key Washington ally.

But he said the 34-member caretaker cabinet, sworn in a day earlier and headed by former finance minister Hazem al-Beblawi, was comprised of “extremely competent people.”

The new administration faces a raft of challenges, including restoring security and overcoming deep divisions illustrated by Wednesday’s pro-Morsi protests in central Cairo.

Several thousand people gathered near the cabinet headquarters, shouting anti-government slogans.

They marched peacefully in the direction of Cairo University, across the Nile, carrying banners that read: “Retaliation for the martyrs” and “Down with military rule.”

Ashton held talks with Egypt’s new leaders, members of the grass-roots anti-Morsi movement Tamarod and officials from the Freedom and Justice Party, the political wing of Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood.

But the EU’s top diplomat was not able to meet Morsi himself. He has been held in custody since the military overthrew him on July 3 after massive nationwide protests against his rule.

“I believe he should be released,” Ashton told reporters. “I was assured he is well. I would have liked to see him.”

US Deputy Secretary of State William Burns, who visited Cairo on Monday and Tuesday did not meet Brotherhood representatives and was snubbed by Tamarod.

AFP