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UN Security Council calls for end to violence in Egypt as death toll rises

The UN Security Council has called for an end to violence in Egypt following an emergency meeting. Egyptian authorities have raised the death toll from Wednesday's violence to 638 amid calls for more demonstrations.

Government building in Giza. Photo Reuters

Giza Provinzregierung Brand

After an emergency meeting, the United Nations Security Council urged all parties in Egypt to end the violence and exercise maximum restraint. The call came after hundreds of people were killed when troops and police crushed protests.

Council members called for national reconciliation, expressed regret at the loss of life and sent sympathy to the victims. "The view of council members is that it is important to end violence in Egypt and that the parties exercise maximum restraint," Argentine UN Ambassador Maria Cristina Perceval told reporters after the 15-member council met to discuss the situation on Thursday night.

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Egypt deaths and reaction

The closed-door UN Security Council discussion came shortly after the Egyptian police were given government authority to use deadly force. After a fire at the governor's office in Giza (photo above), the interior ministry issued a statement saying: "The ministry has given instruction to all forces to use live ammunition to confront any assaults on institutions or the forces."

The UN meeting was called for by France, Britain and Australia. France and Britain are permanent members of the Security Council and Australia is one of the 15 countries currently represented.

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan had earlier called for a Security Council meeting: "This is a very serious massacre... against the Egyptian people who were only protesting peacefully," Erdogan said.

US and Egypt

US President Barack Obama announced on Thursday that joint US-Egypt military exercises scheduled for next month have been cancelled, although he gave no indication that the US planned to cut off its $1.3 billion (1.5 billion euros) annual military aid to the country.

"While we want to sustain our relationship with Egypt, our traditional cooperation cannot continue as usual when civilians are being killed in the streets and rights are being rolled back," Obama said. He added that his national security team would "assess the actions taken by the interim government and further steps that we may take as necessary with respect to the US-Egyptian relationship."

Speaking from his rented vacation home on Martha's Vineyard, Obama said: "The United States strongly condemns the steps that have been taken by Egypt's interim government and security forces."

"We deplore violence against civilians. We support universal rights essential to human dignity, including the right to peaceful protest," the president added.

In response, the office of Egyptian interim president Adly Mansour issued a statement saying the country was facing "terrorist actions targeting the government and vital institutions." It added that: "The presidency fears statements not based on facts may encourage violent armed groups."

Death toll

The death toll has risen to 638 and nearly 4,000 wounded following Wednesday's security crackdown on two camps housing supporters of ousted president Morsi.

In a statement on Thursday, the Health Ministry said that 288 of those killed were in the largest protest camp in Cairo's Nasr City district and 90 others died in a smaller encampment at al-Nahda Square, near Cairo University. Others died in clashes elsewhere in the Egyptian capital and other cities.

Mohammed Fathallah, the ministry spokesman, said earlier that the bodies in the El Imam mosque in Nasr City were not included in the official death toll. It was not immediately clear if the new figures included the ones at the mosque.

Morsi's Muslim Brotherhood has said that it believes 2,600 people have died and10,000 have been injured, but the figures appeared high in light of footage by regional and local TV networks.

Friday protests

The Muslim Brotherhood has called for a mass rally on Friday in a challenge to the government's declaration of a month-long state of emergency and a dusk-to-dawn curfew.

Egypt's Tamarod group, which called for the protests that led to the ousting of Morsi, also called on its supporters to take to the streets. In a statement read out on state television, the group said: "During these difficult times, we must all stand together... to defend the future of our children from terrorism and the dark forces which want to drag us back centuries."

jm/ccp (Reuters, AP, AFP)

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