Cairo - Egypt's government vowed on Wednesday to remove
Islamist protest camps after it said foreign mediation had failed, sparking
fears of a violent end to the month-old standoff since president Mohammed
"The cabinet affirms that the decision to disperse the
Rabaa Adawiya and Nahda sit-ins is a final decision, on which all agree, and
there is no going back on it," prime minister Hazem al-Beblawi said on
Protesters camped out in the two Cairo squares insist they
will stay until the Muslim Brotherhood's Morsi is reinstated as president.
"We call on them now, anew, to quickly leave, and
return to their homes and work, without being chased if their hands have not been
soiled by blood," Beblawi said.
"The government's solicitude for the holy month of
Ramadan... in which it hoped the crisis would be resolved without the
intervention of security, did not mean the cabinet had gone back on its
decision," he said, just hours before the end of the Muslim fasting month.
The presidency said earlier on Wednesday that Western and
Arab efforts to mediate an end to Egypt's political deadlock had failed.
The statement came hours after US Deputy Secretary of State
William Burns left Cairo, without making headway in finding a compromise
between the army-installed government and Morsi's supporters.
"The phase of diplomatic efforts has ended today,"
the presidency said, referring to mediation by Burns and EU envoy Bernardino
Leon, who were among other diplomats who had travelled to Cairo.
"These efforts have not achieved the hoped for
National security threat
The presidency said it "holds the Muslim Brotherhood
completely responsible for the failure of these efforts, and for consequent
events and developments relating to violations of the law and endangering
More than 250 people have been killed in clashes since
Morsi's ouster by the military on 3 July, following days of mass rallies
demanding his resignation.
The government had already ordered police to end the sit-ins
and protests, which it described as a "national security threat," but
held off amid intense diplomatic efforts to find a peaceful resolution.
In a joint statement, US Secretary of State John Kerry and
EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton expressed their worries over the tense
"While further violent confrontations have thus far
been avoided, we remain concerned and troubled that government and opposition
leaders have not yet found a way to break a dangerous stalemate," they
But the government, which has faced intense domestic pressure
to crack down on Morsi's supporters, lashed out on Tuesday against what it
called "excessive" international pressure.
This statement came as US senators John McCain and Lindsey
Graham outraged government supporters by describing Morsi's removal as a
"The people who are in charge were not elected, and the
people who were elected are now in jail," Graham said.
The comments drew a harsh rebuke from the presidency, which
described the comments as "clumsy".
Graham and McCain were later asked by CBS News if they were
alarmed by events in Egypt.
"Oh my God," Graham responded. "I didn't know
it was this bad. These people are just days or weeks away from all-out
Washington on Wednesday urged Egypt's military and political
factions to resolve their differences through dialogue.
"We absolutely do not believe that the time for
dialogue has passed," State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki said.
Western envoys had pressured the Brotherhood to end its
sit-ins, according to Islamists who attended the talks. They also demanded that
the government release jailed Islamist leaders as a confidence-building
Egyptian authorities bear a "special responsibility"
to crack the stalemate and "ensure the safety and welfare of its
citizens," Kerry and Ashton stressed.
"This remains a very fragile situation," they
Morsi himself is being held on suspicion of having
collaborated with Palestinian militants to kill policemen and stage jail breaks
during an early 2011 uprising against strongman Hosni Mubarak, while Morsi was
The Brotherhood's supreme guide, Mohamed Badie, and his
deputies, are to stand trial later this month on charges of inciting the
shootings of protesters outside their headquarters on 30 June.
The government says it is up to the judiciary to release
prisoners. The Islamists say their release is a precondition for further talks
on finding a settlement, which could include symbolically reinstating Morsi,
who would then call early elections.
Authorities have promised demonstrators a safe exit and said
ending their protests would allow the Brotherhood's return to political life.
More than 80 protesters were killed in clashes with police
at the main sit-in outside Cairo's Rabaa al-Adawiya mosque on June 27.
Over 50 people died in earlier clashes with soldiers outside
an elite army base.