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Egypt dismisses US senators' call for releases

Two top US senators visiting Egypt have urged the release of detained Muslim Brotherhood members. Egypt’s interim president described their comments as "unacceptable" as foreign mediation efforts begin to be questioned.

A mediation visit by the two Republican senators appeared to have fallen short of its desired aim on Tuesday, with state newspaper al-Ahram indicating that Cairo was beginning to tire of outside involvement.

During their visit, the senators - John McCain and Lindsey Graham - called for the release of detained members of the Muslim Brotherhood and the beginning of a national dialogue to bring Egypt to democratic rule.

The comments, calling the detainees "political prisoners" and referring to the overthrow of President Mohammed Morsi - who was last year elected to the post - as a "coup" were denounced by interim Egyptian President Adly Mansour. In a brief statement, Mansour described the remarks as "unacceptable interference in internal politics."

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US senators ruffle Egypt

Morsi and his Muslim Brotherhood backers were toppled from power on July 3, when the military intervened in a growing political dispute with Islamists on the one hand and secular liberals on the other.

Although the senators were asked to visit Egypt by US President Barack Obama, they did not directly represent the White House, having found themselves at odds with the White House over the response to last month’s transfer of power.

A description of the overthrow as a coup is something that the Obama administration has so far avoided.

'Failure' to be announced'

After the visit, the state-run al-Ahram newspaper said on Tuesday that Cairo was preparing to announce "the failure of all US, European, Qatari and UAE delegations in convincing the Brotherhood of a peaceful solution to the current crisis."

Al-Ahram also said the government - according to official sources - was preparing to designate ongoing Muslim Brotherhood protests as "non-peaceful." That distinction has been seen as a sign that the government intends to end the protests by pro-Morsi protesters, if necessary by force.

Recent weeks have seen a flurry of diplomatic activity with US Deputy Secretary of State William Burns, EU foreign policy head Catherine Ashton and German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle among the visitors to Cairo.

EU envoy Bernardino Leon met Prime Minister Hazem al-Beblawi on Monday after he and Burns met the day before with the Brotherhood's number two, Khairat al-Shater, in prison. Ashton last week met Morsi himself, at the place where he was being detained.

rc/uproar (AFP, Reuters, AP, dpa)

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