Egypt`s rivals hold rare crisis meeting to end political chaos

Last Updated: Thursday, January 31, 2013 - 23:23

Cairo: Egypt`s rival political factions on Thursday held rare talks in the country`s highest seat of Islamic learning to end days of political chaos and street protests which have claimed 60 lives in the deeply polarised country.

Leaders from all prominent political parties at the meeting in the al-Azhar mosque promised to support a "serious national dialogue" to resolve the current political crisis.

Grand Imam Ahmed al-Tayyeb chaired talks between liberal opposition leaders, Islamists, youth groups, independents and church members at the Al-Azhar headquarters here.

Senior opposition leader Mohamed ElBaradei said after the meeting that he was "optimistic".

At the end of the meeting a document entitled `Al-Azhar document` was signed. The document vows to support "a serious dialogue", "condemns all forms of violence and incitement to violence", and stresses "responsibility of the state and its security apparatus to protect citizens”.

The political manoeuvres came a day after Egypt`s Army chief and Defence Minister Gen Abdul Fattah al-Sisi warned that the current wave of unrest that triggered political crisis in the country "could lead to a collapse of the state".

The past week has seen the worst violence since Mursi won the presidency in June, leaving 60 people dead and a total of 590 people injured.

Besides ElBaradei, ex-Arab League chief Amr Mussa and Saad al-Katatni, head of the Freedom and Justice Party of President Mohammed Mursi`s Muslim Brotherhood were among others who attended the talks.

"We come out of these talks with some sort of optimism," despite "the difficult challenges ahead”, said ex-UN nuclear watchdog chief ElBaradei, also a top leader of the opposition National Salvation Front.

Saad al-Katatni of Freedom and Justice Party described the meeting as "historic" and stressed the need for continued dialogue, according to the Egyptian al-Ahram newspaper.

While the Grand Imam said the national dialogue in which all the components of the Egyptian society participate without any exclusion was "the only means to resolve any problems or disagreements".

It remained to be seen whether the Al-Azhar document would carry weight on the streets, where clashes between protesters and police have killed dozens since rallies marking the second anniversary of Egypt`s uprising last week.

But on social media, the fastest thermometer for the opinion of Egyptians, users were quick to condemn al-Baradei and even call him a traitor for agreeing to sit with the Muslim Brotherhood after the bloodshed last week.

"The National Salvation Front does not represent me," was the status which was posted thousands of times as soon as the presser which followed the meeting ended. Others used words to describe him such as "traitor" and "opportunist".

The more radical groups continued to call on protestors to take to the street tomorrow which coincidentally marks a year from the massacre at the Port Said stadium which killed 74 football fans.

Mursi had declared a month-long emergency in riot-hit Port Said,

smailia and Suez provinces and deployed military in the region along the strategic Suez Canal. But curfew was widely ignored, with tens of thousands of residents taking to the streets.

PTI



First Published: Thursday, January 31, 2013 - 23:22

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