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Infighting could delay Egypt plans

| Wednesday, July 10, 2013, 9:45 p.m.

CAIRO — Political infighting threatened to stall Egypt's transition plans on Thursday, as the military cracked down on Muslim Brotherhood leaders it blames for inciting a clash in Cairo in which troops shot and killed 53 protesters.

The violence on Monday between supporters of ousted President Mohamed Morsy, Egypt's first freely elected leader toppled by the army last week, and soldiers at a military compound has opened deep fissures in the Arab world's most populous country.

On Wednesday, Egypt's public prosecutor ordered the arrest of Muslim Brotherhood leader Mohamed Badie and several other senior Islamists, evoking memories of when the movement was repressed under autocratic former Egyptian leader Hosni Mubarak, who was ousted in 2011.

Morsy's Muslim Brotherhood called for protest marches on Friday, when noon prayers are held in mosques, raising the risk of more violence after fighting between rival factions swept Egypt last week and killed 35 people.

Muslim Brotherhood spokesman Gehad El-Haddad said the leaders had not been arrested and some were still attending a protest vigil at Rabaa Adawiya mosque, where thousands of supporters have camped out for the past two weeks despite punishing heat.

He said the charges against them of inciting violence were “nothing more than an attempt by the police state to dismantle the Rabaa protest.”

“What can we do?” he asked. “In a police state, when the police force are criminals, the judiciary are traitors and the investigators are the fabricators, what can one do?”

Egypt's 84 million people are increasingly divided between those who rallied on June 30 to demand Morsy's resignation and angry Islamists who say their democratic rights have been crushed in what they call a military coup.

Separately, the youth-led Tamarud group, which coordinated the mass protests against Morsy centered in Cairo's Tahrir Square, invited its followers to rally there, also on Friday, in a festive celebration of the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan.

Ramadan, normally a time of celebration, falls this year under the dark shadow of a crisis that has left Egyptian society more divided than at any time in its modern history.

The situation in Cairo and other cities has calmed significantly since last week's protests and Monday's clash in which four security personnel were also killed.

Hazem el-Beblawi, the interim prime minister, told Reuters he expects the transitional cabinet to be in place early next week as he seeks to implement the military-backed “road map” that envisages new parliamentary elections in about six months.

Beblawi acknowledged that it will be a challenge to find a cabinet line-up with universal support. “I don't believe that anything can have unanimous approval,” he said.

The economist has indicated he would be open to offering cabinet posts to Islamists, including Muslim Brotherhood figures. The Muslim Brotherhood says it will have nothing to do with a government of what it calls a fascist coup.

In Washington, President Obama has ordered a review of U.S. assistance to Egypt's government, the Pentagon said.

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