Egypt: Brotherhood won't 'swallow reality'
06 August 2013, 09:37
Cairo - The Muslim Brotherhood on Monday rejected pleas from
international envoys to "swallow the reality" that Mohammed Morsi
will not return as Egypt's president.
The envoys from the United States and the European Union,
trying to resolve a political crisis brought on by the army's overthrow of the
Islamist Morsi a month ago, visited jailed Brotherhood deputy leader Khairat
El-Shater in the early hours of Monday.
But he cut the meeting short, saying they should be talking
to Morsi, Brotherhood spokesperson Gehad El-Haddad said. People briefed on the
meeting described it as long, in some moments intense, but constructive and
From the other side, a senior military source said the army
and interim government would offer to free some jailed Muslim Brotherhood
members, unfreeze its assets and give it three ministerial posts, in a move to
end the crisis.
A source involved in the diplomatic initiative said the
releases from prison were expected within hours.
The releases would be a confidence building measure, and the
Brotherhood would be expected to make goodwill gestures to show they have good
The army spokesperson, Ahmed Ali, said no deal had been reached
between the Brotherhood, the military and the government to end Egypt's
Several thousand Islamist supporters marched through
downtown Cairo calling for Morsi’s reinstatement and denouncing the army
general who led his overthrow.
Marchers chanted: "Morsi, Morsi" and "We are
not terrorists", and waved pictures of the ousted leader.
The protest showed tensions still running dangerously high
in Egypt despite the mediation effort by the United States, the European Union,
Qatar and the United Arab Emirates.
"Things should move soon, otherwise we shall miss this
opportunity. This is all still incredibly fragile." said a source involved
in the diplomatic initiative.
Morsi became Egypt's first freely-elected president in June 2012,
16 months after the overthrow of US-backed strongman Hosni Mubarak, who had
ruled for nearly 30 years.
But fears that he was trying to establish an Islamist
autocracy, coupled with a failure to ease economic hardships afflicting most of
Egypt's 84 million people, led to huge street demonstrations, triggering the
Speaking about the talks in recent days, Brotherhood
spokesperson Haddad said the envoys "still carry the position that we should
swallow the reality and accept that the military coup has happened and try to
recover with minimum damage".
"We refuse to do so," Haddad told Reuters.
There was no agreement on how to start talks, he added.
The state news agency said earlier that diplomats, including
US Deputy Secretary of State William Burns and European Union envoy Bernardino
Leon, had met Shater after midnight at the Tora Prison where he is being held
south of Cairo.
Shater is seen as the political strategist of the group that
propelled Morsi to office last year, and was arrested on charges of inciting
violence after Morsi’s downfall.
He told the envoys that only Morsi could "solve the
mess" and the only solution was "full restoration of constitutional
legitimacy and reversal of the coup", Haddad said.
"They invited him for discussions but he ended it
abruptly ... then he walked out of the room," Haddad said.
Morsi is being held at an undisclosed location, facing an
investigation into accusations including murder. Most of the rest of the
Brotherhood's leadership is also in custody.
In Washington, State Department spokesperson Marie Harf said
Burns had no plans to meet Morsi. She suggested no breakthroughs were imminent.
"There is clearly much more work to do. We have the
goal of helping the Egyptians get back to a democratically elected, inclusive
government," Harf told reporters.
Violence on hold
The diplomatic push has so far helped to hold off further
bloodshed between Morsi’s backers and the security forces.
An EU source in Brussels said the mediators were still
trying to build confidence between the various sides and did not want to raise
"The real thing at this stage is to bring people
together so they can actually meet and discuss these issues and for that you
have to build up some trust and that can be done by very concrete measures,
releasing people, dropping charges, not pressing charges, not moving into the
squares, lowering the tension," the source said.
Thousands of Morsi supporters remain camped out in two Cairo
sit-ins, which the government has pledged to disperse. The government said on
Sunday it would give mediation a chance but warned that time was limited.
Almost 300 people have been killed in political violence
since Morsi’s overthrow, including 80 shot dead by security forces in a single
incident on 27 July.
During Monday's march, protesters sprayed graffiti on walls
and statues calling army chief General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, who led Morsi’s
overthrow, a murderer and a traitor.
Security forces made no attempt to disperse a crowd
estimated by reporters at several thousand strong.
"The military came and stole our country, they stole
everything," said Mahmoud Isuafi, a businessman from the Nile Delta city
of Mansoura. "I want democracy. Where is my vote? I can no longer elect my
leader so I protest instead."
The military has laid out a plan that could see a new head
of state elected in roughly nine months. The Brotherhood, which spent decades
in the shadows before Mubarak's downfall, says it wants nothing to do with it.
However, diplomats say the Brotherhood knows Morsi will not
return as president and wants a face-saving formula for him to step down that
guarantees it a stake in the political future.
Two US senators, Republicans Lindsey Graham and John
McCain, arrived in Cairo at President Barack Obama's request to meet members of
the new government and the opposition.
Before leaving on the mission, Graham said the Egyptian
military must back out of politics quickly or risk a cut of the $1.5 billion in
aid it receives from Washington each year.