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International community 'not looking back' after 30 June: Baradei

Egypt's Vice President gives first interview to local television, stresses he is only concerned with the future following ouster of president Morsi

Nada Hussein Rashwan, Sunday 4 Aug 2013
Baradei
Mohamed Elbaradei (Photo: AP)
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In his first local television interview as Vice President for Foreign Affairs, Mohamed ElBaradei told private satellite channel Al-Hayat Saturday evening that there was international recognition that the ouster of president Mohamed Morsi by the military following nationwide protests was necessary. He renewed calls to supporters of the deposed president to re-integrate in the new political order.

"We are currently not under any outside pressure," ElBaradei said in a pre-recorded interview. "The international community, along with the government, is now pressuring the Brotherhood to avoid violence and return to participation in political life."

"The US and the EU have already announced that what happened was a popular movement and not a military coup. They are now focused on what's next," he added.

Following disputes on the US's position on Egypt, Secretary of State John Kerry said on Friday that the army had restored democracy in the country in response to widespread protests demanding Morsi's resignation, elected in June 2012 as Egypt's first post-Mubarak president.

ElBaradei explained that his priority was to communicate to international actors that the 30 June actions were "not a new revolution but a correction of the 25 January revolution" against the Mubarak regime.

"John Kerry's statement was based on a conversation we had, where I explained that the army intervened to avoid civil war and that the move was in response to a popular movement," he said.

"Prior to the 30 June protests [against Morsi] I had stressed to Kerry the necessity of Morsi's resignation amid growing popular dissatisfaction."

ElBaradei also defended the decision to allow the EU Policy Chief Catherine Ashton and the African Union delegation to visit Morsi in the undisclosed location where he has been held by the military since his ouster.

"It was a good step to show the world through Ashton and the African delegation that Morsi is being treated well, even though he is in an exceptional security situation, and that we have nothing to hide," ElBaradei said.

"The international community was worried about the safety of Morsi, though we had repeatedly said he was treated well," he added.

ElBaradei went on to say that apart from talks with international actors on Egypt's situation, the following item on his foreign policy agenda is reaching out to Nile Basin and Gulf countries.

"During the past year it was very unclear where our relations with these two regions were going," he added, referring to the tension under Morsi with Gulf countries of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates and its ties with Qatar, as well as the row between Egypt and Ethiopia over the proceeding of building the disputed Renaissance Nile Dam.

'Violence last option'

ElBaradei reiterated his insistence on ending the current political impasse through a political solution, while pointing out that if the Muslim Brotherhood refuses to cooperate and insists on escalation, violence may be a feared inevitable consequence.

"My priority within the next 48 hours is to find a way to lessen the tension and decrease violence," he said. "My statement [in a Washington Post interview] about releasing Morsi in exchange for ending the sit-ins was mistranslated," he explained.

"I would love for the [Muslim Brotherhood's political wing] FJP and [Salafist] Nour party to continue as political actors and be part of the 50 member committee amending the constitution, but it is unacceptable that Nour party rejects a woman as culture minister," he said. "I support their right to be part of the political process, but within a constitution that forbids them from speaking in God's name."

The Muslim Brotherhood and its Islamist allies have maintained two mass sit-ins in Cairo's RabaaAl-Adaweyaand Nahda Squares and continue to holds demonstrations demanding Morsi's reinstatement. The Islamist alliance supporting Morsi has repeatedly said it will not be part of any negotiations that do not involve Morsi's return to power.

"I'd say to Morsi that the country can't handle confrontation. If your people listen to you, tell them to refrain from violence and escalation. All Brotherhood leaders are responsible for encouraging an end to violence and upholding political participation."

Several pro-Morsi demonstrations have turned to clashes with police forces and unknown assailantsin which dozens of protesters have been killed.

The military-backed interim government has accused Morsi's Islamist supporters of carrying out "terrorist acts" against their opponents. A report by Amnesty International cited a number of people claiming they were tortured by pro-Morsi protesters inside their Rabaa sit-in.

"The law must be applied on those on those who exercise violence, but on a parallel line a political solution must be prepared to end the crisis," Elbaradei said. "Brotherhood leaders who turn out not guilty of charges against them should be released. We're not applying selective justice."

A number of senior figures in the FJP and the Brotherhood were detained on charges of incitement and responsibility over slain protesters following Morsi's ouster.

Elbaradei insisted that violence is not the way to resolve the problem.

"Those who want to crush the Brotherhood accuse me of being soft. I don't believe my concern over the loss of lives makes me a soft man," he said.

"It's easy to get angry and say we'll crush the Islamists, but it will result in massive deaths. The fact that I'm being criticized by the Brotherhood as well as Mubarak regime figures means I'm doing something right."

ElBaradei expressed possible disagreement with the army on how to deal with pro-Morsi protests.

"El-Sisi's call for protest was only aimed at showing the world that an overwhelming majority is against mixing religion with politics and that the Brotherhood's project is rejected."

Western political leaders as well as a number of human rights organizations have expressed concern over statements made by the Egyptian government earlier this week about communication between the police and the army deciding a day to disperse the thousands-strong pro-Morsi sit-ins in Cairo, feared by observers to inevitably cause high levels of casualties.

"I repeatedly told El-Sisi that dispersing the sit-in is not right," he said."But still, if we reach a point where there is no alternative to using violence, it has to be exercised with minimallossesof lives."

Battle ahead

Speaking about the post-Morsi political process, Elbaradei said the battle lies ahead for the liberal opposition camp - mainly the umbrella group the National Salvation Front of which he is a leading figure –in amending the constitution and competing in the elections, the main components of the military-enforced post-Morsi roadmap.

"The NSF has to continue with its work, the real battle lies in the constitution and the elections ahead," he said.

"The NSF is a strong civil front. We got past our biggest obstacle [by removing Morsi] but we still have decisive phases ahead of us. I hope the NSF competes in the elections as one entity."

Responding to a question about the possibility of his running for president, Elbaradei repeated that he does not wish to hold the position.

"My role is to get the country back on track. I believe it's time to transfer power to a new generation. Our generation is the product of decades of oppression, I'm only here to coach the new generation onto the new path."

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