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US senators arrive in Egypt for fresh diplomatic push

AFP (file photo)

A fresh diplomatic push to find a solution to Egypt’s ongoing political crisis is underway with US senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham arriving in Cairo Monday for talks with both the country’s military leaders and members of the opposition.


US senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham arrived in Cairo Monday as part of a fresh diplomatic push to find a peaceful solution to Egypt’s ongoing political crisis sparked by the military's overthrow of Islamist president Mohammed Morsi.

The two senators were asked by US President Barack Obama to travel to Egypt to meet with its military leaders and members of the opposition, with talks due to start on Tuesday.

Before leaving, Senator Graham said in a television interview that Egypt’s military must move “more aggressively” to hold elections and that future US aid will hinge upon a return to civilian rule.

“The military can’t keep running the country. We need democratic elections,” he told CNN’s State of the Union programme on Sunday.

Almost 300 people have been killed in political violence since the military ousted Morsi on July 3 and the US has been grappling with how to respond to the situation amid increasing political turmoil.

The White House and US lawmakers are also struggling with how to handle the $1.55 billion in mostly military aid that Washington sends each year to Egypt, a key ally in the Middle East.

US law bars sending aid to countries in which there has been a military coup, and Obama administration officials have been strenuous in their efforts to to talk about events in Egypt without using the word.

“I want to keep the aid flowing to Egypt but it has to be with the understanding that Egypt is going to march toward democracy, not toward a military dictatorship. And that’s the message we’re going to send,” Graham said.

EU and US envoys meet with jailed Muslim Brotherhood leader

Graham and McCain’s trip is just the latest effort to find a diplomatic solution to the Egypt crisis.

EU envoy Bernardino Leon and US Deputy Secretary of State William Burns were also in Egypt Monday, where they met with the number two of Morsi's Muslim Brotherhood movement, Khairat al-Shater, in prison, officials said.

According to Egypt’s official MENA news agency, Burns and Leon were accompanied by top diplomats from Qatar and the United Arab Emirates during the visit to Shater at Cairo's high security prison in Tora.

But Muslim Brotherhood spokesman Gehad al-Haddad said Shater refused to speak to the delegation, saying only that the Brotherhood's position on defending Morsi's legitimacy is "unchanged".

The powerful Shater, one of the main financiers of the Muslim Brotherhood, is due to face trial on August 25 along with senior Brotherhood leader Rashad Bayoumi and Brotherhood Supreme Guide Mohammed Badie, who is currently in hiding.

The three are accused of inciting the killing of protesters during clashes outside the Brotherhood headquarters in Cairo in June.

Morsi himself has been formally remanded in custody on suspicion of offences committed when he escaped from prison during the 2011 revolt that toppled former president Hosni Mubarak.

Supporters of Morsi - Egypt's first freely elected president- see his ouster by the military as a violation of democracy and have held numerous protests and sit-ins since his overthrow, insisting on nothing short of reinstatement

The interim leaders, however, say there is no turning back on the army-drafted roadmap announced after Morsi's removal on July 3 and which provides for new elections in 2014.

Days of heated diplomatic activity in Cairo have also seen visits by EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, Arab diplomats and an African Union delegation.

(FRANCE 24 with wires)

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