Violence feared as Egypt set to disperse protesters
Egypt's interior ministry yesterday promised Mohamed Morsi's supporters "safe exit" if they quickly leave their Cairo protest camps, as police prepared to disperse them amid international appeals for restraint.
The call to disperse, which came after police commanders discussed how to carry out orders from the military-installed interim government to end the protests, was immediately rejected by the demonstrators.
Diplomatic efforts to avoid further bloodshed picked up pace, with EU Middle East envoy Bernardino Leon and German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle both arriving in Cairo to urge the rival camps to find common ground.
An interior ministry statement called "on those in Rabaa al-Adawiya and Nahda squares to let reason and the national interest prevail, and to quicky leave."
The ministry "pledges a safe exit and full protection to whoever responds to this appeal," the statement added.
Ministers had ordered police to end sit-ins and marches by Morsi's Islamist supporters, saying they amounted to a "national security threat."
The orders raised fears of new violence, less than a week after 82 people were killed in clashes at a pro-Morsi rally in Cairo.
The international community, which has expressed mounting concern over the violence since Morsi's July 3 ouster, warned against further bloodshed.
The German foreign minister, who arrived in Cairo on Wednesday, urged both sides to remain peaceful and seek an inclusive solution.
EU envoy Leon also landed in Cairo on Wednesday, to follow up on three days of intensive diplomacy by the bloc's foreign policy chief, Catherine Ashton.
The US State Department called on the interim authorities to "respect the right of peaceful assemblies."
"That obviously includes sit-ins," spokeswoman Marie Harf told reporters.
British Foreign Secretary William Hague called for "an urgent end to the current bloodshed" and the release of Morsi, in a phone call to interim vice president Mohamed ElBaradei, the Foreign Office said.
And Amnesty International condemned the cabinet order as a "recipe for further bloodshed."
Much of the Egyptian media expressed support for the government's decision, with some saying the interim administration had received "the people's mandate" in demonstrations last Friday backing Morsi's overthrow.
More than 250 people have been killed since the army ousted him following nationwide protests against his single year in power.