• Top EU diplomat heads to Egypt for talks with new regime

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    EGYPT20130718

    A handout photo released by the Egyptian presidency shows Egypt’s interim president Adly Mansour (right) shaking hands with Egypt’s caretaker prime minister Hazem al-Beblawi at the swearing in ceremony of Egypt’s interim cabinet on Tuesday (Wednesday in Manila) in Cairo. AFP PHOTO

    CAIRO: The European Union’s (EU) top diplomat was heading for Cairo on Wednesday, a day after an interim government was sworn in to replace Islamist president Mohamed Morsi, toppled by the military two weeks ago.

    Announcing the surprise visit, the office of EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said her visit was to press the case for a swift return to democratic rule.

    “I am going to Egypt to reinforce our message that there must be a fully inclusive political process, taking in all groups which support democracy,” Ashton said.

    Both the Muslim Brotherhood, the influential movement from which Morsi hails, and the ultra-conservative Al-Nur party refused to take part in the new administration.

    Brotherhood spokesman Gehad El-Haddad immediately rejected the 35-member cabinet that was sworn in on Tuesday. “We don’t recognize its legitimacy or its authority.”

    The government is headed by liberal economist Hazem al-Beblawi.

    Army chief Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, the general behind the popularly backed coup that overthrew Morsi, becomes first deputy prime minister and minister of defense.

    Tuesday’s swearing-in ceremony took place just hours after deadly clashes between the security forces and Morsi’s supporters in Cairo and nearby Giza.

    Officials said seven people were killed and 261 wounded in the clashes. Hundreds of protesters were also arrested.

    On Monday, United States (US) envoy Bill Burns—the most senior American official to visit since the July 3 coup—had appealed for an end to the violence rocking the Arab world’s most populous nation.

    Within hours, however, thousands of Morsi supporters were on the streets of the capital protesting at the president’s overthrow and his detention by the military.

    Hundreds of them battled the security forces and two people died in clashes around the central Ramses area near Tahrir Square, while another five were killed in Giza.

    A security source cited by state media said 401 protesters were arrested in the Ramses area alone, and at least 17 security personnel were injured.

    This was the first major violence in the capital since dozens of Morsi supporters were shot dead outside an elite army barracks early last week.

    The United States condemned the violence. State Department spokesman Patrick Ventrell said it made the transition “much more difficult,” but he insisted Washington was not taking sides.

    Washington has refrained from saying Morsi was the victim of a coup, which would legally require a freeze on some $1.5 billion in US military and economic assistance to Cairo.

    The caretaker government included three women ministers and three Coptic Christians.

    AFP

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