Cairo - Egypt's army-installed government is expected to
announce that foreign mediation designed to end the country's political crisis
has failed, a state-run newspaper said on Tuesday.
Al-Ahram newspaper, citing official sources, also said the
government would declare that Muslim Brotherhood protests against the army's
overthrow of President Mohammed Morsi were non-peaceful - a signal that it
intends to end them by force.
The report appeared hours after two senior US senators
delivered a strong message to the military, saying it should release political
prisoners and start a national dialogue to return Egypt to democratic rule.
The Republican senators - Lindsey Graham and John McCain -
also described the removal of the Islamist Morsi as a coup - a definition the
military and interim government have bridled at.
Egypt has been in turmoil since Morsi’s overthrow on 3 July,
following huge demonstrations against his rule.
The country's first freely elected president, Morsi is now
being detained at an undisclosed location and thousands of his supporters
remain camped out at two protest sites in Cairo.
Envoys from the United States, the European Union, Qatar and
the United Arab Emirates have been pushing to resolve the crisis and avert
further bloodshed between Morsi’s backers and the security forces.
But the al-Ahram report dashed hopes of a breakthrough and
cast the blame on the Muslim Brotherhood's intransigence.
It said the interim government would announce "the
failure of all US, European, Qatari and UAE delegations in convincing the
Brotherhood of a peaceful solution to the current crisis".
The government had allowed the envoys to visit jailed
Brotherhood leaders in order to give a peaceful solution a chance. But it now
considered Morsi’s overthrow a fait accompli and would proceed with its own
"road map" for elections in nine months, al-Ahram said.
The government announcement also set the stage for a
showdown with pro-Morsi protesters camped out at Rabaa and al-Nahda in Cairo,
saying they were non-peaceful gatherings.
The security forces last week promised the protesters safe
exit if they quit the camps, but warned their patience was limited. They may,
however, hold off any action until after Sunday, the end of Eid al-Fitr, the
holiday that marks the close of the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan.
The latest development put the brakes on a mission by Graham
and McCain, sent to Cairo by US President Barack Obama to help resolve the
crisis in a country that is instrumental in Washington's Middle East policy.
The two men urged the government to free political prisoners
and start a dialogue with the Brotherhood.
They also appealed to the Brotherhood, many of whose leaders
have been jailed, including the deposed president, to avoid resorting to
violence and to join the dialogue.
"The people who are in charge were not elected. The
people who were elected are in jail. The status quo is not acceptable,"
Graham told a news conference.
They also described Morsi’s overthrow as a coup - a
definition that is hotly disputed by the rival Egyptian sides and among US
officials, and could trigger a cut-off of the $1.3bn US military aid Egypt
receives each year.
However, "cutting off aid would be the wrong signal at
the wrong time", McCain said.
Their comments after meeting army chief General Abdel Fattah
al-Sisi, interim Vice President Mohamed ElBaradei and interim Prime Minister
Hazem el-Beblawi, appeared to have riled the military and government.
A spokesman for the interim government, Sherief Shawki, gave
a cool response to the senators' words. He rejected their characterisation of Morsi’s
overthrow as a coup and said the army acted in response to the demands of the
The government would stick by that plan, he said. He also
rejected the call to release jailed Brotherhood members, saying they would be
dealt with by the courts.
Morsi took power in June 2012, 16 months after the overthrow
of US-backed strongman Hosni Mubarak, who had ruled for nearly 30 years.
But fears he was trying to establish an Islamist autocracy,
coupled with a failure to ease economic hardships afflicting most of Egypt's 84
million people, led to mass street demonstrations, triggering the army move.
Almost 300 people have been killed in political violence
since the overthrow, including 80 shot dead by security forces on 27 July.
The crisis has put US policy in a quandary. Mubarak was a
close ally who kept Islamist militants under heel and maintained peace with
Israel. Washington was slow to support the popular uprising that ousted him and
cautiously welcomed Morsi’s election.
McCain said the senators also met members of Morsi’s Freedom
and Justice Party, the political arm of the Muslim Brotherhood.
On Monday, US Deputy Secretary of State William Burns and
European Union envoy Bernardino Leon met jailed Brotherhood deputy leader
Khairat El-Shater in the prison where he is being held.
They tried to persuade him to recognise that there was no
realistic prospect of Morsi being reinstated and to accept a political
compromise. A Brotherhood spokesperson said Shater had insisted they should be
talking to Morsi and the only solution was the "reversal of the coup".