Mohammed Mursi

Move to democracy or lose US aid, Cairo told

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 08 August, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 08 August, 2013, 3:13am

Egypt's government vowed yesterday to break up Islamist protest camps after foreign mediation failed, sparking fears of a violent end to the month-old standoff since president Mohammed Mursi's ousting.

"The cabinet affirms that the decision to disperse the Rabaa Adawiya and Nahda sit-ins is a final decision, on which all agree, and there is no going back on it," Prime Minister Hazem al-Beblawi said on state television.

Protesters have been camped out in two Cairo squares and insist they will stay until the Muslim Brotherhood's Mursi is reinstated as president.

The presidency announced earlier that Western and Arab efforts to mediate an end to Egypt's political deadlock had failed. Its statement came hours after US Deputy Secretary of State William Burns left Cairo, having made no headway in finding a compromise between the government and Mursi's supporters.

The presidency said it "holds the Muslim Brotherhood completely responsible for the failure of these efforts, and for consequent events and developments relating to violations of the law and endangering public safety."

Adding his weight to the drive for a peaceful resolution to the crisis, United Nations chief Ban Ki-moon urged the release of Mursi, who has been formally remanded in custody.

His statement came as US senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham outraged the government's supporters by describing Mursi's removal as a "coup" on a visit to Cairo.

They also warned Egypt that the US would cut off aid if the new, military-appointed government failed to move rapidly towards democracy.

"We are hopeful that the direction of the transition will be going back to democracy; that is the only one we can support," said Graham.

While they have been fighting a congressional push to restrict the US$1.5 billion a year in US aid to Egypt, both senators have argued publicly that Washington should call the ousting of Mursi, Egypt's first elected president, a coup. The administration has avoided that term to sidestep a legal requirement to restrict the aid.

Agence France-Presse, The New York Times