Egypt Army chief meets Islamists over crisis

Army chief Abdel Fattah al-Sisi met overnight with Islamist leaders to try and resolve the crisis pitting supporters of ousted president Mohamed Morsi against Egypt`s new leaders.

Cairo: Army chief Abdel Fattah al-Sisi met overnight with Islamist leaders to try and resolve the crisis pitting supporters of ousted president Mohamed Morsi against Egypt`s new leaders.

Sisi "met with several representatives of the Islamist movements ... And stressed that there are opportunities for a peaceful solution to the crisis provided all sides reject violence," army spokesman Colonel Ahmed Aly said in a statement, without specifying who his interlocutors were.

Morsi loyalists have been holding two major sit-ins for more than a month, paralysing parts of the capital and deepening divisions.

Authorities have repeatedly called on them to go home, promising them a safe exit.
But supporters of Morsi -- Egypt`s first freely elected president-- see his July 3 ouster by the military as a violation of democracy and have insisted that nothing short of his reinstatement would end their protests.

Following a meeting with US Deputy Secretary of State William Burns, the political arm of Morsi`s Muslim Brotherhood stressed its continued commitment to "legitimacy, which stipulates the return of the president, the constitution and the Shura Council," or upper house of parliament.

The US envoy`s visit, which followed trips by EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton and German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle, was the latest move in a diplomatic drive to break the deadlock in Egypt.

The Islamists` latest declaration suggested that Burns`s visit had failed to shift their position.

"We affirm our welcome of any political solutions proposed on the basis of constitutional legitimacy and rejection of the coup," said the statement from the Freedom and Justice Party.

Burns has also met Foreign Minister Nabil Fahmy in a bid to broker a compromise between the two sides.

Washington also kept up the pressure from afar, with Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel urging Sisi to support an "inclusive political process," the Pentagon said.

The diplomatic push came as the Washington Post published an interview with Sisi, who lashed out at Washington, urging it to pressure Morsi supporters to end their rallies.

Tensions spiked over a looming police bid to dismantle the pro-Morsi Cairo sit-ins. But Fahmy insisted authorities have "no desire to use force if there is any other avenue that has not been exhausted."

AFP

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