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Merkel floats idea of EU block on arms to Egypt

Germany has proposed stopping arms shipments to Egypt as part of a coordinated EU response to bloodshed amid a government crackdown on Islamists. Diplomats are set to thrash out the course of action Brussels might take.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Sunday floated the idea of halting arms shipments to Egypt as a statement of concern about the Egyptian interim government's response to the crisis.

Some 800 people have been killed in violence since the military and police launched a crackdown on Muslim Brotherhood supporters last Wednesday.

Speaking to the German public broadcaster ZDF, Merkel said weapons exports could be "subject to measures which clearly show our scepticism about what is happening in Egypt at the moment.

"However complicated the political situation is, violence is no solution," said Merkel, who described the current situation as "worrying."

"No one, whether military or non-military, has the right to use violence against citizens."

The chancellor said all possibilities, including an embargo on arms shipments that have already been approved for Cairo, would be a matter of discussion between Germany and her European partners.

"There will probably be a meeting of European foreign ministers in the next week," said Merkel, who was responding to questions in a broad ranging summer interview with the broadcaster, adding: "We will examine what steps can be taken... we must act together and take the same measures."

EU diplomats were due to hold emergency talks in Brussels on Monday about the continuing violence in Egypt, ahead of any meeting at ministerial level.

Arms policy ‘already restrictive'

Speaking to the German weekly news magazine, Focus, in comments published on Sunday, German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle said Berlin's policy regarding weapons exports to Egypt was "already restrictive."

"It will remain so, particularly in view of current developments," he added.

In a statement released jointly on Sunday by European Council President Herman Van Rompuy, and European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso called on all parties in Egypt to exercise restraint.

At the same time, the statement appeared to point the finger at the military and the interim government it installed after ousting the democratically elected Islamist president, Mohammed Morsi, last month.

"While all should exert maximum restraint, we underline the particular responsibility of the interim authorities and of the army in bringing clashes to a halt," the statement read. "The violence and the killings of these last days cannot be justified nor condoned. Human rights must be respected and upheld."

rc / ch (AFP, AP, dpa)