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Egyptian liberals, Islamists join in denouncing violence

January 31, 2013|By Reem Abdellatif
  • Nobel Peace Prize laureate Mohammed ElBaradei, third from the left, and Freedom and Justice Party leader Saad Katatni, right, join other political figures during a news conference Thursday in Cairo calling for a dialog to end violent protests.
Nobel Peace Prize laureate Mohammed ElBaradei, third from the left, and… (Ahmed Hammad / European…)

CAIRO -- Egypt's young revolutionaries organized a rare gathering Thursday for deeply divided Islamist and liberal political parties to denounce the violence and unrest that have threatened the nation’s stability and economy.

The meeting came after days of bloody clashes between protesters and security forces that have left at least 54 people dead and hundreds injured across the country. Egypt has become increasingly volatile since President Mohamed Morsi took office in June and his party linked to the Muslim Brotherhood rose to power.

"Everyone sensed the danger the country faces, and in the spirit of responsibility there was a unanimous condemnation of violence [and] against attempts to spread chaos,” said Saad Katatni, the chairman of Muslim Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice Party. “I am optimistic about the future and I hope that this is the right beginning to overcome our differences.”

The unity talks, which included Coptic Christian leaders, were hosted by the country’s leading Muslim cleric, Grand Imam Ahmed Tayeb of Al Azhar mosque and university, one of the Muslim world’s leading institutions. Wael Ghonim, a prominent blogger and online activist, was among the young revolutionaries who attended.

The gathering included Nobel Peace Prize laureate Mohamed ElBaradei, who heads the country's main opposition front; Amr Moussa, a diplomat and former presidential candidate; and Hamdeen Sabahi, also a former presidential candidate.

"We all sat down to sign an agreement to renounce all forms of violations because the peaceful nature of this revolution was what brought down the previous regime of Hosni Mubarak," Hussein Abdelghany, spokesman for the National Salvation Front, Egypt's main liberal opposition coalition, told the Times.

"We have not changed our demands, which include amending the constitution to represent all Egyptians, the formation of a rescue [unity] government, and a plan for social justice for 60% of our citizens living under the poverty line," he said. "We are also still calling for substantial dialog with the government and President Morsi."

Liberal and secular groups have complained that the new constitution pushed through by Morsi's government imposes an Islamist agenda on the country.

There was no immediate announcement of when opposition leaders, including the National Salvation Front and ultraconservative Islamist Salafis, will meet in a national dialog with Morsi. The president has repeatedly rejected the idea of a unity government.

Meanwhile, in the coastal city of Port Said, hundreds of people prepared for protests Friday. Anger against the Islamist-led government has been especially fierce in the coastal cities of Suez, Port Said, and Ismailia, where citizens say they were ignored under Mubarak and are even more neglected by Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood.

"Down, down with the Supreme Guide's rule," the protesters chanted, referring to the Muslim Brotherhood supreme leader Mohammed Badie. More than 40 people have been killed in Port Said in recent days, most of them in rioting after 21 people were sentenced to death for a deadly stadium melee last year.
 
Many protesters chanted that they will not leave the streets until Morsi is held accountable for those who died in the violence over the last week.

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