Egyptian group accuses U.S. of backing Morsi on eve of nationwide protest rallies

A major Egyptian opposition group amplified its condemnation of the United States on Saturday, accusing it of being partner to a conspiracy to keep President Mohamed Morsi in power, a day after an American bystander was killed during clashes here.

“America and the Brotherhood have united to bring down the Egyptian people,” said Hassan Shahin, a member of the Tamarod, or “rebel,” movement. He was referring to the Muslim Brotherhood, which backs Morsi. Shahin spoke during a Saturday news conference held to rally Egyptians’ support ahead of anti-government demonstrations planned for Sunday, the first anniversary of Morsi’s accession to power.

Thousands of Egyptians took to the streets in competing protests Friday. By Saturday, clashes between the rival sides in the coastal city of Alexandria had left three dead and more than 200 wounded, and attackers in Nile Delta cities had set fire to Brotherhood offices.

Tamarod, a chief organizer of Sunday’s rallies, said it had gathered 22 million signatures for a petition voicing no confidence in Morsi. It was impossible to verify that number, and the group provided no details.

Ten non-Islamist members of the Islamist-dominated upper house of parliament also used the news conference as an opportunity to announce their resignation, in solidarity with the weekend’s protests.

The Muslim Brotherhood and Islamist allies held another news conference Saturday night in which they argued that they are victims of an anti-democratic rebellion. It is acceptable for people to have different opinions of the president, but the protests had crossed a red line, said Mohamed Nour, a spokesman for the hard-line Islamist political party al-Watan.

“When the issue is about the lives and blood of Egyptians, when it is about raiding places of worship, we must stand together against this rebellion against legitimacy,” Nour said.

On Saturday, the State Department confirmed that Andrew Pochter, a 21-year old college student from Chevy Chase, had been killed in Alexandria on Friday. The State Department advised Friday against nonessential travel to Egypt.

President Obama discussed the unrest during a news conference in Pretoria, South Africa, on Saturday. “The United States supported democracy in Egypt. It’s been challenging given there has not been a tradition of democracy in Egypt,” he said. “Our most immediate concerns have to do with our embassies and consulates.”

David Nakamura in Pretoria, South Africa, and Lara El Gibaly in Cairo contributed to this report.

Abigail Hauslohner has been The Post’s Cairo bureau chief since 2012. She served previously as a Middle East correspondent for Time magazine and has been covering the Middle East since 2007.
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