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Egyptian Islamist leader calls for siege of U.S. embassy

Published July 22, 2013 5:55 pm

This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Cairo • A Muslim Brotherhood leader called on Egyptians to lay siege to the U.S Embassy in Cairo to protest what he said was American support for the ouster of Islamist President Mohammed Morsi.

U.S. diplomats should leave Egypt, Essam El-Erian told Brotherhood supporters Monday in Cairo's Nasr City suburb, where they've been staging a sit-in since Morsi's July 3 removal by the army. He said he hoped they wouldn't be harmed. The U.S., which gives more than $1 billion a year to the Egyptian military, hasn't labeled its intervention as a coup, though it has called for a quick transition to democracy.

One person was killed and seven were injured Monday during clashes between Morsi supporters and opponents in Tahrir Square in Cairo, state television reported. Pro-Morsi demonstrators also fought with opponents near the Defense Ministry, the state- run Middle East News Agency reported. More than 100 people were injured in similar clashes last night in the coastal city of Suez, according to Ahram Gate news website.

The daily protests by supporters of the deposed leader threaten to undermine the army-installed government's plan for a transition back to elected government. That got under way yesterday with the first meeting of a panel charged with amending the constitution drawn up under Morsi and approved in a referendum in December.

Even before El-Erian's remarks, Egyptian police had set up barriers around the U.S. Embassy in central Cairo. The compound was the site of clashes between protesters and police in September, shortly before the American ambassador to Libya and three fellow nationals were killed in an attack on the consulate in Benghazi. Calls to the embassy's media department weren't immediately answered.

The embassy and all roads leading to it are totally secure and the government won't allow it to be attacked, said Adel- Fattah Osman, assistant to the interior minister.

The protest there may be a "calculated escalation" and the Brotherhood will probably try to avoid violence, said Mustapha Al-Sayyid, a professor of politics at Cairo University. "It's seeking the support of foreign governments, and violence will lead them to support the current interim government."

The military intervention against Morsi followed days of mass rallies against his rule. Fighting has repeatedly broken out since then, leaving dozens dead in Cairo and other cities, mostly Brotherhood supporters. There have also been intensified attacks by militants in the Sinai peninsula, where several soldiers and policemen have been killed and injured.

The transition may have to be prolonged "until a deal is reached with the Muslim Brotherhood," said Ziad Akl, a senior analyst at the Al Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies in Cairo.

Morsi pushed a constitution through a referendum last year, ignoring opponents who said the document favors Islamists and infringes on basic rights. Under the road map announced by interim President Adly Mansour, amendments will be drafted by representative panels, which will consider proposals from various political groups, then submitted to a referendum. That will be followed by presidential and parliamentary votes.

The April 6 movement, one of the groups that campaigned for Morsi's ouster, said it will propose a "ban on religious parties," according to an e-mailed statement. The clause was included in a charter passed under Hosni Mubarak, who persecuted Islamists during his three-decade rule that was ended by the 2011 uprising.

"There's no way the Muslim Brotherhood are not going to be part of Egypt's political scene," Akl said. "What they are doing now by the daily protests is trying to apply political pressure to enhance their position in negotiations."