US urges Egypt to avoid ‘lethal force’

WASHINGTON, District of Columbia, Aug 16, 2013 (AFP)

The US on Friday urged Egypt to avoid using “lethal force” against demonstrators, as the death toll from a crackdown on supporters of ousted president Mohamed Morsi continued to mount.

“We again urge all sides to cease violence, and we note that government has a particular responsibility to ensure an atmosphere that allows Egyptians to exercise peacefully their universal rights,” State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki told AFP in an email. “Lethal force should not be used against peaceful demonstrators.

Demonstrators must also demonstrate peacefully.” Thousands of Islamists protested Friday across Egypt, sparking violence that killed at least 70 people and turned parts of Cairo into battlefields after police authorized the use of live ammunition. The clashes came two days after 578 people were killed as police cleared two Cairo protest camps set up by Morsi loyalists.

Egypt’s cabinet issued a defiant statement, even as clashes continued in the hour before a night-time curfew began, saying it was confronting a “terrorist plot”. Psaki said US officials “have spoken with the Egyptian ambassador numerous times this week to convey our position, especially to urge an immediate end to violence and the start of inclusive dialogue.”

The crackdown drew strong condemnation from the international community, and European Union foreign affairs chief Catherine Ashton called Friday for the bloc to adopt “appropriate measures” in response.

“We remain actively and closely engaged with our European partners on the situation in Egypt,” Psaki said. US President Barack Obama on Thursday canceled exercises with Egypt’s military to protest the killing but stopped short of suspending $1.3 billion in annual aid.

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