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EU's Ashton 'deeply deplores' deaths in Egypt protests

The European Union's foreign policy chief has appealed for restraint in Cairo and elsewhere in Egypt. A statement said Catherine Ashton "deeply deplores the loss of life during yesterday's demonstrations" around Egypt.

The EU issued a statement on Saturday saying that Catherine Ashton was "following with concern the latest developments in Egypt and deeply deplores the loss of life during yesterday's demonstrations."

"[Ashton] also calls on all actors to refrain from violence and to respect the principles of peaceful protest and non-violence," the statement said.

The worst violence took place in the early hours of Saturday morning when police and Muslim Brotherhood supporters clashed. This followed demonstrations both from supporters of deposed president Mohammed Morsi and advocates of the interim military rule.

Brotherhood officials and medics from Islamist field hospitals said that at least 75 of their supporters were killed in the clashes and 1,000 more were injured. Health Ministry officials, however, put the death toll at 20 people early on Saturday. Brotherhood officials said police used live ammunition in running battles with protesters, while the official MENA news agency reported that only tear gas was used to subdue civilians.

News agency AFP reported that one of its correspondents saw 37 bodies at an Islamist-run field hospital in Cairo, some with gunshot wounds visible.

Counter-protests, charges for Morsi

Supporters of Morsi have been camped out in the Cairo neighborhood of Nasr city since he was ousted on July 3; the worst of the overnight clashes took place in this area of the capital. In Egypt's second city, Alexandria, five people were reported dead and 50 injured in clashes.

Friday's fighting followed a call from army chief Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi for the public to return to the symbolic Tahrir Square to show their support for the security forces' crackdown on "violence and terrorism." Hundreds of thousands heeded the call, which followed a major Brotherhood demonstration at the same site on Thursday.

A Cairo judge on Friday also ordered that Morsi be detained for 15 days, allowing prosecutors to investigate various allegations against the politician. Morsi had been held in unofficial custody at an undisclosed location, without charge, ever since the military removed him from office.

The allegations pertain to Morsi's January 2011 escape from prison, with the judge alleging that Brotherhood members conspired with Hamas, Hezbollah and local militants to arrange the jailbreak at the Wadi el-Natroun prison.

Morsi narrowly won the election last June in a presidential runoff, becoming Egypt's first democratically elected leader. Major public protests against his rule that helped set the military intervention in motion were called to coincide with the one-year anniversary of him taking office.

msh/jr (AFP, dpa, Reuters)