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Egyptian Government to Use ‘All Means Necessary’ to Disband Pro-Morsi Protests

July 31, 2013 at 12:00 AM EST
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JEFFREY BROWN: And we return once again to the turmoil in Egypt. The country’s cabinet announced a further crackdown against the Muslim Brotherhood today, ordering the clear-out of the group’s protest sites.

Margaret Warner reports.

MARGARET WARNER: The order to police to disband the sit-in protests came from the interim government this afternoon.

DORREYA SHARAF EL-DIN, Egyptian Information Minister (through translator): Relying on the people’s mandate to the state to deal with terrorism and violence, which threaten the fall of the state and destruction of the nation, the cabinet has decided to take all means necessary to face these dangers and put and end to it.

MARGARET WARNER: As the news spread, supporters of ousted President Mohammed Morsi stood warily at their two campsites in Cairo, scenes of their month-long standoff with the regime. A senior official of Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood issued a bloody forecast.

ESSAM EL-ERIAN, Muslim Brotherhood (through translator): There are expectations of a massacre taking place in front of the eyes of the whole world. The free people in Egypt and the world must stand against this stupid cabinet mandate for the police to end the sit-in protests.

MARGARET WARNER: Over the weekend, security forces battled pro-Morsi demonstrators, killing more than 80. It was the worst spasm of violence since Morsi was deposed July 3. Hundreds more were injured and bodies of the dead overwhelmed makeshift morgues.

In Washington today, U.S. State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf voiced concern about today’s announcement.  

MARIE HARF, State Department: We have urged the interim government officials and security forces to respect the right of peaceful assembly. That obviously includes sit-ins.

MARGARET WARNER: So far, the Obama White House has refused to label Morsi’s ouster a coup. That designation would force a suspension of U.S. aid. The administration has put on hold the sale of four F-16s to Egypt.

But, today, in the U.S. Senate, Kentucky Republican Rand Paul made a bid to cut off all U.S. military aid entirely.

SEN. RAND PAUL, R-Ky.: Do you know what the money is spent on? Tanks. Tanks roll over people in protest. I have no love lost for the Muslim Brotherhood, but they have disappeared them. We’re going to be giving money to the military to disappearing people.

MARGARET WARNER: That drew fire even from fellow Republicans. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina said continuing the U.S. military aid is crucial.

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM, R-S.C.: But why are we selling weapons to Egypt? Because, if we don’t, someone else will. It’s not a question if they’re going to buy fighter planes. It’s a question of who they’re going to buy them from.

MAN: The ayes are 86. The nays are 13.

MARGARET WARNER: In the end, Paul’s measure was soundly rejected.