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Diplomatic efforts to defuse Egyptian crisis ongoing

Diplomatic efforts to resolve the crisis in Egypt without further bloodshed continued over the weekend. While the situation remained extremely tense, some spoke of initial signs of a willingness to compromise.

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The US deputy secretary of state, William Burns, met on Saturday both with senior supporters of ousted President Mohammed Morsi and government officials, as part of ongoing efforts to resolve a stand-off between the two sides.

Following his meeting with Burns, Nabil Fahmy, foreign minister in the interim government installed after the July 3 military takeover, played down threats to dismantle sit-ins being held by Morsi loyalists.

Fahmy said while the government was committed to ending the sit-ins, there was "no desire to use force if there is any other avenue that has not been exhausted."

He also stressed his government's willingness to work with Morsi's Islamist Muslim Brotherhood.

"There is an open invitation for all political forces to participate. The door is open for everybody, including the Brotherhood, to participate in the process," Fahmy told a press conference in Cairo.

Bottom line

However, at the same time, there was no sign of any willingness to release Morsi, who has been in custody since the military takeover.

There was also little sign that the Muslim Brotherhood would be willing to accept any less than Morsi's release and his reinstatement as president.

A statement from a spokesman for the Morsi camp, though, acknowledged the demands of the millions who took to the streets to protest against the former president's government in the days leading up to the military takeover.

More meetings to come

"I respect and hold in regard the demands of the masses that went out on June 30, but I will not build on the military coup," spokesman Tarek El-Malt told the Reuters new agency, echoing what he said Brotherhood leaders had told Burns and the European Union's envoy, Bernardino Leon.

While there was no sign of a breakthrough on Saturday, the Associated Press quoted an Egyptian foreign ministry official who said Burns had decided to extend his visit to Cairo by one day, so that he could meet the head of the armed forces, General Abdel-Fatah el-Sissi on Sunday. It also quoted sources from the Morsi camp who said they too would meet with Burns again on Sunday.

pfd/av (AP, AFP, Reuters, dpa)