US suggests Egyptian military averted civil war
Updated: 2013-07-18 08:19
CAIRO - Egypt avoided a possible civil war this month, US Secretary of State John Kerry said on Wednesday, making it hard for Washington to conclude that the overthrow of Islamist President Mohamed Mursi was a military coup.
Supporters of deposed Egyptian President Mohamed Mursi run from tear gas fired by riot police during clashes at Ramses Square in Cairo, July 15, 2013. [Photo/Agencies]
The armed forces deposed the elected leader on July 3 after huge street protests against his rule, clearing the way for the instalment this week of a new interim cabinet charged with restoring civilian government and reviving the troubled economy.
Thousands of Mursi's supporters demonstrated outside the prime minister's office and marched through Cairo on Wednesday to denounce the military-backed administration and show that they had no intention of bowing to army dictates.
Crisis in Egypt, which straddles the vital Suez Canal, has alarmed allies in the West. Washington would be forced to cut off aid to Cairo, including some $1.3 billion that goes to the military, if it determined Mursi had been removed by a coup.
"On the issue of a coup, this is obviously an extremely complex and very difficult situation," Kerry told reporters during a visit to Jordan, where he held talks with Arab officials, adding that Washington would not "rush to judgment".
"What complicates it, obviously, is that you had (an) extraordinary situation in Egypt of life and death, of the potential of civil war and enormous violence, and you now have a constitutional process proceeding forward very rapidly."
His comments underscored grave US concerns about the Arab world's most populous state and suggested that President Barack Obama was in no hurry to pull the plug on the aid programme.
European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton became the latest senior international figure to visit Egypt's interim rulers and, unlike a US envoy who came two days ago, she also met senior figures in Mursi's Muslim Brotherhood.
However, Brotherhood leader Amr Darrag said the Europeans had not put forward any plan to resolve the crisis. On her last visit, in April, Ashton attempted to persuade Mursi to sign up to a power-sharing deal brokered by an EU envoy. The president did not respond.
Thousands of Brotherhood supporters are staging a vigil in a square in northeast Cairo, vowing not to move until the restoration of Mursi, Egypt's first freely elected president. He has been held at an undisclosed location since his downfall.
A prosecutor on Wednesday ordered the detention of 70 Mursi backers for 15 days pending investigations over clashes that killed seven people early Tuesday, state news agency MENA said.
They are accused, among other crimes, of rioting, blocking a Cairo road bridge and targeting policemen with firearms.