CAIRO: A senior United States (US) official was in Cairo on Monday to press for a return to elected government following Mohamed Morsi’s overthrow, as the Islamist leader’s supporters and opponents readied rival rallies.
Under Secretary of State Bill Burns, the first senior US official to visit since the July 3 overthrow of Egypt’s first freely 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 new elections, but Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood defiantly insists on his reinstatement.
In the Sinai Peninsula, three factory workers where 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 which borders Israel.
Burns, scheduled to hold talks with interim military and civilian leaders, will push for “an end to all violence and a transition leading to an inclusive, democratically elected civilian government,” the State Department said.
International concern is mounting over the continued detention of Morsi, who has been in custody since hours after the July 3 coup and who was quizzed by prosecutors on Sunday over complaints of possible criminal offences.
The US administration has still not decided whether he was the victim of a coup, which would legally require a freeze on some $1.5 billion in desperately needed military and economic US assistance to Cairo. On Sunday, two influential US Republican senators, Lindsey Graham and John McCain, urged the administration to cut the aid in response to the coup.
The same day the European Union’s foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton called for a swift return to elected civilian government and the release of political detainees.
The Brotherhood has refused to join the new government headed by caretaker Prime Minister Hazem al-Beblawi, who is forming his cabinet with an eye on technocrats. The ultra-conservative Islamist party Al-Nur also confirmed it will not join the interim government. Spokesman Nader Bakkar told Agence France-Presse, “We would participate only in an elected government.”
Among the appointments confirmed on Monday was prominent liberal leader Mohamed ElBaradei, 71, who was sworn in as interim vice president for foreign relations.