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Egypt's interim ruler sets elections within six months


In the wake of fresh violence between the army and supporters of ousted president Mohammed Morsi, Egypt’s new interim leader has issued a decree scheduling a parliamentary poll within six months and a presidential vote to follow.


Egypt’s interim head of state has set a speedy timetable for elections, after the military ouster of Islamist President Mohamed Morsi last week sparked a wave of bloody protests.

A decree issued by Adli Mansour, who was picked by the army to succeed Morsi, pointed to a parliamentary ballot within about six months with a presidential vote to follow.

The need for a political breakthrough in the Arab world’s biggest country is pressing.

At least 51 people were killed on Monday when the army opened fire on Morsi supporters camped outside Cairo’s Republican Guard barracks where the deposed leader is believed to be held.

The military said it opened fire in response to an attack by armed assailants.

Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood movement called for more protests on Tuesday, raising the risk of further violence, although an umbrella group representing anti-Morsi protesters said they would not demonstrate.

The bloodshed has shocked Egyptians, already tired of the turbulence that began more than two years ago with the overthrow of autocrat Hosni Mubarak in a popular uprising.

It also raised alarm among key donors like the United States and the European Union, as well as in Israel, with which Egypt has had a peace treaty since 1979.

Millions of people took to the streets on June 30 to demand Morsi’s resignation, fearing he was orchestrating a creeping Islamist takeover of the state - a charge the Brotherhood has vehemently denied.

Shocking scenes

Anti-Morsi protesters, who were performing prayers outside military barracks, and the army give two very different accounts of Monday’s shootings, FRANCE 24’s special correspondent in Egypt, Gallagher Fenwick, explained.

“The Islamists describe a raid by special forces, who used live bullets while protesters had no weapons. Some of the men praying had even come with their wives and babies”, Fenwick said.

But the military explained that the Republican Guard facility came “under attack by armed terrorists”, he added.

Emergency services said 435 people were also wounded in the deadly incident.

At a hospital near Cairo’s Rabaa Adawiya mosque, where many of the wounded and dead were taken, rooms were crammed full, sheets were stained with blood and medics rushed to attend to those hurt.

Video broadcast by Egyptian state TV showed Morsi supporters throwing rocks at soldiers in riot gear on one of the main roads leading to Cairo airport.

Young men, some carrying sticks, crouched behind a building, emerging to throw petrol bombs before retreating again.

The graphic scenes came just three days after Cairo, Alexandria and other cities and towns were rocked by running street battles between Morsi’s supporters and opponents, which went on for hours despite a heavy military presence.

Leader targets early elections

Mansour decreed that Egypt will hold new parliamentary elections once amendments to its suspended constitution are approved in a referendum - a process that could take about six months, less than some people had expected.

In what appeared to be an olive branch to Islamists, the decree included controversial language put into the constitution last year that defined the principles of Islamic sharia law.

The Brotherhood movement has refused to have anything to do with the process, and thousands of supporters have camped out in northeast Cairo for the last five days and vowed not to budge until Morsi returns as president - a seemingly vain hope.

The events have worried Western allies. The United Nations said it was “gravely concerned” about mounting violence in Egypt and said the country was on a “precarious path.”

“The Secretary-General condemns these killings and calls for them to be thoroughly investigated by independent and competent national bodies,” it said in a statement.

The United States, still refraining from calling the military intervention a “coup” - a label that would trigger legal obstacles to continuing aid payments - called on Egypt’s army to exercise “maximum restraint.”

But White House spokesman Jay Carney said an immediate cut-off in military aid to Egypt "would not be in our best interests", when asked whether Washington was reconsidering the more than $1 billion--mostly military aid--it provides annually.

The Egyptian military has insisted that the overthrow was not a coup and that it was enforcing the “will of the people” after millions took to the streets on June 30 to call for Morsi’s resignation.

(FRANCE 24 with wires)

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