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Egypt opposition presses Morsi

09 April 2013, 14:00

Cairo - After Egypt's worst sectarian violence in months left seven dead the past two days, Egypt's leading opposition figure Mohamed ElBaradei on Monday called on the Islamist president to make serious concessions to bring the opposition into decision-making, saying national reconciliation is the only way out of the country's myriad problems.

The violence, capped by an unprecedented mob attack on the main cathedral of Egypt's Coptic Orthodox Church, raised new alarm over the escalating turmoil in the country, which has been polarised over the administration of Islamist President Mohammed Morsi and Islamists' political power.

The opposition has blamed months of unrest on attempts by Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood, from which he hails, to monopolise power, accusing them of squeezing out other voices and failing to find consensus on major national issues, such as the controversial, Islamist-backed constitution passed in a December referendum.

Morsi supporters say he has repeatedly invited all parties into dialogue in the past and have accused the opposition of fuelling street unrest to undermine the Islamists' election victories, including that of Morsi.

Morsi denounced Sunday's violence at the Cathedral, saying he considered any attack on the cathedral as an attack against him personally. He also ordered an immediate investigation into the violence and spoke with the head of the Coptic Church, Pope Tawadros II.

The Brotherhood's political arm, the Freedom and Justice Party, depicted the attack as a new part of the attempts to create chaos and destabilise Morsi.

On Monday, the party's secretary-general, Hussein Ibrahim, wrote on his Facebook page comments that whoever thinks that "igniting sectarian violence can bring down a ruling regime is mistaken. The fire of sedition if ignited in Egypt, God forbid, will burn all".

He too called for a serious dialogue, not by "staking out positions through satellite TV".

New government

ElBaradei said that the opposition is not ready to enter a dialogue with Morsi for sure and that it first wants moves to indicate he is serious in seeking to heal rifts by meeting long-held opposition demands.

He said Morsi should appoint a new government, not packed with Islamists but instead based on merits and able to oversee upcoming parliamentary elections independently.

He said the opposition also demands an independent committee write the law governing the election without giving advantage to the Brotherhood, the country's most organized political force.

ElBaradei also said that a court order that annulled a Morsi decree appointing the country's top prosecutor must be respected and a new prosecutor installed to heal rifts in the judiciary and ensure trust in an independent prosecution.

Then, he said, the two sides could hold a dialogue on bigger national issues. "We are waiting for Morsi to understand that without national reconciliation, Egypt will not rise," ElBaradei told a gathering of opposition figures in a conference designed to offer solutions to Egypt's teetering economy.

"The state today is collapsing. It is a collapsing state politically, economically, socially and security-wise," said ElBaradei. "And I don't think we have long to fix this."

Attempts to seek comments from the presidency on ElBaradei's call were not immediately successful.

Despite an earlier round of talks between ElBaradei and members of the Brotherhood's party, the presidency has dismissed demands for appointing a new government and has so far stayed out of the dispute over the prosecutor. An election law is currently being reworked in the Shura Council, Egypt's current legislative body, which is dominated by Islamists.



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