El-Baradei Calls for Dialogue
Opposition leader calls for national dialogue to solve the crisis
CAIRO, Asharq Al-Awsat—A day after the military warned that the country could collapse because of the current political crisis, Nobel Peace Prize winner Mohamed El-Baradei, a leading figure in the opposition National Salvation Front, called for urgent talks with Egypt’s leadership.
“We want an immediate meeting between the president, the ministers of defense and the interior, the ruling party, the Salafist movement, and the National Salvation Front to take urgent measures to end the violence and begin a serious dialogue,” El-Baradei said in a tweet on Wednesday.
This comes as Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi flew to Germany to convince Europe of his democratic credentials, leaving behind a nation in crisis after a wave of violence that killed more than sixty people.
Egypt’s army chief warned yesterday that the state was on the brink of collapse after Morsi’s opponents and supporters clashed in street battles that have marked the two-year anniversary of the revolt that toppled Hosni Mubarak.
Due to the crisis, Morsi has curtailed his European tour, cancelling plans to go to Paris after Berlin. He is due to return to Cairo later today.
Meanwhile, in Tahrir Square dozens of protesters threw stones at police on Wednesday morning, who then fired back with tear gas, although the scuffles were short-lived.
“Our demand is simply that Morsi goes and leaves the country alone. He is just like Mubarak and his crowd who are now in prison,” said Ahmed Mustafa, 28, a youth who had goggles on his head to protect his eyes from tear gas.
Morsi’s critics accuse him of betraying the spirit of the revolution by keeping too much power in his own hands and those of his Muslim Brotherhood, the Islamist movement banned under Mubarak that has won elections repeatedly since the 2011 uprising.
Morsi’s supporters say the protesters want to overthrow Egypt’s first democratically elected leader. The unrest has prevented a return to stability ahead of new parliamentary elections, due within months, and worsened an economic crisis that has seen the pound currency tumble in recent weeks.
The worst violence has been in the Suez Canal city of Port Said, where rage was fueled by death sentences passed against soccer fans for deadly riots last year. Morsi responded by announcing a month-long state of emergency on Sunday, along with a curfew in Port Said and two other Suez Canal cities.
In a related development, looters broke into the Semiramis InterContinental hotel yesterday, despite the presence of hundreds of riot police nearby. In the early hours of Tuesday morning, dozens of people forced their way into the hotel, sacking stores inside its shopping plaza and smashing glass and furniture in the lobby.
“Looters had tried several times to break in over the past two days, but when protesters beat back police on Monday night they operated with impunity,” said Nabila Samak, a spokeswoman for the hotel.
When appeals to police failed to end the incursion, Samak said she started contacting journalists and calling for help on social media. “We are under attack and several thugs have entered the Semiramis . . . We need help,” she wrote on the hotel’s Twitter account in the first of several pleas.
Help finally arrived in the form of security forces and protesters, who drove the looters out about two hours after they broke in.