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Egypt crisis reaches dangerous impasse

Acting Egyptian President Adly Mansour blamed the Muslim Brotherhood for the breakdown.

FILE: An Egyptian man, supporter of the Muslim Brotherhood and Egypt's ousted president Mohamed Morsi kisses a poster of him as worshipers gather for prayer outside Cairo's Rabaa al-Adawiya mosque on 11 July, 2013. Picture:AFP

CAIRO - Egypt's political crisis entered a tense phase on Wednesday after international mediation efforts collapsed and the army-installed government repeated its threat to take action against supporters of deposed President Mohamed Morsi.

Both sides called their supporters on to the streets on Thursday, while Morsi supporters in two protest camps in Cairo strengthened sandbag-and-brick barricades in readiness for any action by security forces.

Acting President Adly Mansour said Egypt was in critical circumstances.

He said the interim government would press on with its own plan to hold new elections in nine months.

"The train of the future has departed, and everyone must realise the moment and catch up with it, and whoever fails to realise this moment must take responsibility for their decision."

US envoy William Burns headed home after days of trying to broker a compromise between the government and Morsi's Muslim Brotherhood.

European Union envoy Bernardino Leon stayed on in the capital in the slim hope of reviving the effort.

But Brussels and Washington said they were very concerned that the Egyptian parties had not found a way to break what they called a dangerous stalemate.

"This remains a very fragile situation, which holds not only the risk of more bloodshed and polarisation in Egypt, but also impedes the economic recovery, which is so essential for Egypt's successful transition," US Secretary of State John Kerry and EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said in a joint statement.

The army ousted the Islamist Morsi, Egypt's first freely elected leader, on 3 July after huge street demonstrations against his rule.

Morsi and leaders of his Muslim Brotherhood have been rounded up and detained.

But thousands of their supporters have demonstrated to demand his reinstatement.

Nearly 300 people have been killed in political violence since the overthrow, including 80 Morsi supporters shot dead by security forces on 27 July.

Interim Prime Minister Hazem el-Beblawi said the government's decision to dismantle the protest camps was final and its patience had nearly expired.

Beblawi accused protesters of inciting violence, blocking roads and detaining citizens, and he warned that any further violence would be met "with the utmost force and decisiveness."

PEACE AT EID?

On Wednesday afternoon, people streamed into the camp outside Rabaa al-Adawiya mosque in northeast Cairo, where demonstrators have built barricades and armed themselves with sticks and rocks, including women and children.

Egyptians celebrate Eid, which marks the end of the Islamic fasting month of Ramadan, from Thursday to Sunday, an inauspicious time for any acts of violence.

Egypt's leading Islamic authority on Wednesday announced plans to host talks on the crisis after Eid, which might also forestall an assault by the security forces.

Pro-Morsi parties and leftists who backed his removal called rival demonstrations for Thursday, making the public holiday a potential flashpoint.

The National Alliance to Support Legitimacy, which includes the Brotherhood, urged Morsi supporters to take to the streets for an "Eid of Victory".

The leftist Popular Current party called for public Eid prayers in Tahrir Square.

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