Cairo - Egyptian authorities on Monday postponed a move to
disperse two Cairo sit-ins by supporters of the country's ousted president to
"avoid bloodshed," an official said, as Islamist supporters stepped
up rallies to demand his return to power.
The postponement could, at least temporarily, defuse
tensions that had escalated overnight as the country braced for a new bout of
violence. Any moves by the police against the protesters would have set the
stage for deadly clashes with tens of thousands gathered at the two Cairo
sit-ins in support of ex-president Mohammed Morsi, ousted in a popularly
supported coup on 3 July.
An Egyptian security official, speaking on condition of
anonymity because he was not authorised to talk to reporters, said the decision
to postpone an advance against the protest camps by Muslim Brotherhood
supporters came after a plan on ending the sit-ins was leaked to the media.
The security forces had planned to form cordons around the
Cairo protest sites as early as dawn on Monday, according to officials who spoke
earlier to The Associated Press.
The protesters have said they will not leave until Morsi is
Weeks of efforts by the international community to end the
standoff and find a peaceful resolution have so far failed. Egypt's interim
prime minister warned just ahead of the Muslim Eid al-Fitr holiday that ended
Sunday that the government's decision to clear the sit-ins was
Morsi was deposed after millions of Egyptians took to the
streets on 30 June and for four days demanded that he step down over what they
saw as his failure to act as the president of all Egyptians and his attempts to
monopolize power and serve only his Muslim Brotherhood group's interests.
Morsi has not been seen since the military deposed him,
disbanded his Islamists-dominated parliament and suspended the constitution. He
is held incommunicado, along with some of his aides, while several top
Brotherhood leaders and their Islamist allies are detained on charges of
instigating deadly violence.
Other Brotherhood figures, including the group's top
spiritual guide Mohammed Badie, are on the run or taking refuge amid tens of
thousands of supporters at the sit-in in Cairo's eastern Nasr City district,
where a road intersection facing Rabaah el-Adawiya mosque has been turned to a
heavily fortified tent city.
The sit-in, along with a second one in Cairo's twin city of
Giza, are used as hotbeds for street rallies. The government says the protest
camps are a "threat to national security".
On Monday, Brotherhood supporters also took to the streets
in downtown Cairo and elsewhere in the country, chanting anti-military slogans
and carrying pictures of Morsi.
Meanwhile, an influential Brotherhood member, Mohammed
el-Beltagi, on Monday turned down an offer by the head of the Al-Azhar, the
Sunni Muslim world's top religious institution, to negotiate a solution.
El-Beltagi said that top Al-Azhar cleric Ahmed el-Tayyb was
not an impartial mediator because he backed the coup.
Another Brotherhood figure, Saad Emara, dismissed all
efforts to negotiate a solution, saying the Brotherhood doesn't recognize the
"initiatives from the post-coup era."
"The key to a resolution is the return of legitimate
institutions, including the president," Emara told the AP.
Earlier, Interior Ministry officials had said they were
prepared for clashes that might be set off by the cordons and that ambulances
were on hand to treat the wounded. A special force within the riot police
trained for crowd dispersal was expected to deal with protesters.