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EU sends Catherine Ashton to Egypt for talks

EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton will hold talks in Egypt after a violent weekend claimed more than 80 lives there. Egypt's interior minister has warned against attempts to destabilize the country.

Egypt's interim government announced that Ashton would meet with acting President Adly Mansour and Mohamed ElBaradei, who heads international affairs. State news reported that Ashton would also meet with the Muslim Brotherhood and the Tamarod group, which organized the protests leading up to former President Mohammed Morsi's overthrow by the military.

"I deeply deplore the loss of life," Ashton said in a statement ahead of her visit, adding that she would press for all sides to be included in the return to democracy, "including the Muslim Brotherhood" - Morsi's marginalized party.

Supporters of Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood have remained defiant even after the deaths of 72 people at a demonstration in Cairo Saturday. Violence in the port city of Alexandria led to nine more people killed.

'Security and safety'

On Saturday night ElBaradei had denounced the "excessive use of force" against protesters. Morsi's supporters said security forces targeted them with live fire during the protests. However, according to the Interior Ministry, soldiers and police used only tear gas.

"I assure the people of Egypt that the police are determined to maintain security and safety to their nation and are capable of doing so," Interior Minister Mohammed Ibrahim told a national police academy graduation ceremony on Sunday. "We will very decisively deal with any attempt to undermine stability."

UN spokeswoman Morana Song said Sunday that Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon had "expressed his profound concern about the direction in which the transition in Egypt is moving" and condemned the heightened violence. She added that Ban had called on the authorities to protect "all Egyptians, regardless of party affiliation."

mkg/rg (AFP, Reuters)