As U.S. calls for his release, Morsi supporters stage mass rally

AFP-JIJI

The United States on Friday called on Egypt’s military to free deposed President Mohammed Morsi, as tens of thousands of his supporters vowed to keep fighting for his reinstatement.

State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said the United States agreed with Germany’s earlier appeal for Morsi to be released and was “publicly” making the same request.

The deposed Islamist leader has been held in a “safe place,” according to Egypt’s interim leaders, and has not been seen in public since his July 3 ouster.

Psaki said Washington wanted “an end to restrictions on Mr. Morsi’s whereabouts,” while Germany suggested a trusted institution such as the International Committee of the Red Cross should be granted access to him.

Rival protesters rallied in the capital Friday, but while there had been fears of fresh violence, the evening passed peacefully.

As night fell on Cairo, tens of thousands of Islamist protesters prayed and broke their fast together with an iftar meal on the first weekend of the holy month of Ramadan.

In Cairo’s Tahrir Square and outside the Ittihadiya presidential palace, meanwhile, hundreds of anti-Morsi protesters sat down for their own iftar meal.

Morsi’s supporters had spent the day protesting outside the Rabaah al-Adawiyah Mosque in the Nasr City neighborhood.

They held Egyptian flags and Qurans, and chanted slogans against the military coup that unseated Egypt’s first freely elected president.

“We will continue to resist,” key Islamist leader Safwat Hegazi told Friday’s crowd.

“We will stay one or two months, or even one or two years. We won’t leave here until our president, Mohammed Morsi, comes back,”

Hegazi demanded Morsi’s reinstatement, immediate parliamentary elections and a committee to oversee a plan for national reconciliation.

Mohamed Yousry, a teenager at the rally, said: “I’ll leave as a dead body. We will defend Morsi with our blood.”

The Muslim Brotherhood posted online a picture of a leaflet it said a military helicopter had been dropping on protesters. The leaflets assured them they were safe, but warned them not to approach military installations.

Thousands also massed in support of Morsi outside the University of Cairo, watched over by a heavy security presence.

U.S. President Barack Obama discussed Egypt’s crisis during a phone call Friday with Saudi King Abdullah, a White House statement said. “They agreed that the United States and Saudi Arabia have a shared interest in supporting Egypt’s stability,” the statement said.

Obama also expressed “serious concern” about the violence in Egypt following the overthrow of Morsi. He underscored the need to return to a democratically elected civilian government.

Abdullah was the first foreign head of state to congratulate Egypt’s interim president, Adly Mansour, hours after he was named to replace Morsi.

Interim authorities are pressing ahead with forming a new government amid financial help from Persian Gulf states to shore up the faltering economy.

Interim Prime Minister Hazem al-Beblawi has decided on 90 percent of his proposed Cabinet lineup and was to begin talks Saturday with the nominees, sources told the official MENA news agency.

The full Cabinet lineup will be finalized by the middle of this week, MENA reported.

The Muslim Brotherhood has refused to join the new government, but its leadership is in disarray, key figures either detained, on the run or keeping a low profile.