Morsi supporters protest outside cabinet building in Cairo

July 17, 2013

Several hundred supporters of Egypt’s deposed president massed outside the cabinet building in Cairo on Wednesday, expanding their protests against the country’s new government and demanding the reinstatement of Islamist leader Mohamed Morsi.

The rally came as the European Union’s top foreign policy official met with Egypt’s interim leaders, the second senior Western official to visit the country this week.

The demonstrators, carrying posters of Morsi and chanting slogans against the military, called the new leadership illegitimate. Morsi, an Islamist and the country’s first democratically elected president, was ousted by the military two weeks ago.

Security forces barred the protesters from reaching the cabinet building, but the demonstrators painted graffiti on the walls calling Gen. Abdel Fatah al-Sissi, the military chief, a killer and a traitor.

Islamist protesters have camped out in two areas of Cairo since shortly before Morsi’s July 3 ouster. The Wednesday march, which caused major traffic congestion, came a day after interim President Adly Mansour swore in a new 34-member cabinet.

The ministers include several prominent figures from liberal and secular factions, as well as three women and three Christians. But there are no representatives from the Morsi-allied Muslim Brotherhood or any other Islamist groups. The cabinet also includes officials who served under Hosni Mubarak, the longtime autocrat who was deposed in 2011.

E.U. foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton met with Mansour, Sissi and Mohamed ElBaradei, a reform advocate who has been named vice president for international relations. She also is scheduled to meet with officials from the Brotherhood’s political party.

The international community has sought to steer Egypt back on the road to democratic rule. Morsi was elected last year by a narrow majority in the country’s first free presidential election, but many Egyptians accused him of acting in an authoritarian manner. Others said he gave undue influence to the Brotherhood and did not effectively tackle the country’s pressing problems, including a free-falling economy and tenuous security.

U.S. Deputy Secretary of State William J. Burns met with Mansour and Sissi in Cairo on Monday and later spoke by phone with a member of the Muslim Brotherhood, the State Department said.

Since Mubarak’s overthrow in 2011, Egypt has been split into two camps — one led by Morsi, the Brotherhood and its Islamist allies and another led by secular Egyptians, liberals, Christians and moderate Muslims. The fault lines remain, except that the Islamists are no longer in power.

Morsi and his supporters maintain that Islamist rule has been sabotaged by Mubarak loyalists eager to bounce back to power.

— Associated Press

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