Egypt crisis: UK 'deeply concerned' over violence

Jeremy Bowen reports from a makeshift morgue in a mosque near Ramses Square

The UK government has said it is "deeply concerned" about the ongoing violence in Egypt.

The Foreign Office is advising against all travel to north Sinai and all but essential travel to the rest of Egypt, with the exception of Red Sea resorts.

It comes as protesters loyal to ousted President Mohammed Morsi continue to clash with security forces.

Meanwhile, supporters of Mr Morsi have been demonstrating outside the Egyptian embassy in London for a second day.

About 200 people gathered outside the building in Knightsbridge on Saturday.

And nearby about 50 cars emblazoned with slogans including "stop the murder" and "pro-democracy" took part in a procession, with occupants of the vehicles waving Egyptian flags and giving peace signs.

In Egypt's capital Cairo on Saturday, there was heavy gunfire at a mosque, during a stand-off with barricaded Muslim Brotherhood supporters who want Mr Morsi reinstated.

Tear gas was fired into the building, and witnesses saw live ammunition fired by both sides.

Security forces say the al-Fath mosque has now been evacuated and many of the protesters who refused to leave were arrested.

Emergency meeting

A crackdown on protest camps in Cairo on Wednesday left hundreds of people dead. Further clashes on Friday killed at least another 173 people.

A state of emergency is in force, including a dusk-to-dawn curfew.

A Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) spokesman said on Friday: "We remain deeply concerned about the situation in Egypt and deplore the further loss of life today. The UK continues to call for an end to violence and for a return to peaceful dialogue.

Convoy of supporters of former President Mohammed Morsi in London on 17 August 2013 About 50 cars took part in a procession close to the Egyptian embassy in London

"FCO ministers remain actively engaged in support of these objectives with their regional and international counterparts."

Earlier, Foreign Secretary William Hague discussed the situation with Turkish foreign minister Ahmet Davutoglu.

"We will continue to work closely with our EU and international partners over the coming days in our ongoing efforts to help the Egyptian people achieve peace and a return to democratic processes," the FCO spokesman added.

The Foreign Office said the overall level of its travel advice remained unchanged and advised British nationals in Egypt or planning to travel to Egypt to regularly check the advice.

'Power sharing'

UK Prime Minister David Cameron and French President Francois Hollande have called for an emergency meeting of European Union foreign ministers on Egypt.

In a telephone call on Friday, the two leaders said the EU needed to consider what it could do to persuade both sides to end the violence and speak to each other.

Egypt crisis timeline

  • 3 Jul: President Mohammed Morsi deposed by military after mass protests
  • 4 Jul: Pro-Morsi protesters gather at the Rabaa al-Adawiya and Nahda sites in Cairo
  • 27 Jul: More than 70 people killed in clashes with security forces at Rabaa al-Adawiya
  • 14 Aug: Security forces break up both camps, leaving at least 638 people dead
  • 16 Aug: Muslim Brotherhood holds "day of anger" protest in Ramses Square. Clashes leave at least 173 dead
  • 17 Aug: Siege at al-Fath mosque

A Downing Street spokesman said: "They agreed that the EU should be clear and united in its message; the violence must end immediately and there needs to be a political dialogue, involving all sides, that leads to genuine democracy.

"The prime minister and president said they wanted a meeting of EU foreign ministers to be called for next week.

"They should consider what measures the EU can take to make clear that the violence and repression is unacceptable and to best encourage leaders from all sides to re-engage in dialogue and to chart a peaceful way forward for their country."

Mr Cameron also raised the issue of Egypt with European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso during a telephone call about the border situation between Gibraltar and Spain.

'Extreme force'

Conservative Sir Malcolm Rifkind, the former Foreign Secretary, told the BBC that the Egyptian nation was "divided down the middle" and called for power sharing.

He said: "You think of Northern Ireland, for example, where at the end of the day everyone agreed you could not get peace by simply allowing whoever won the election to have total power; you had to have power sharing.

"It's not surprising that only a year after the end of the Mubarak regime, people still haven't understood what's needed, even in a democratic system, even when you have free elections."

Most of Friday's reported deaths in Egypt were in Cairo but about 25 were elsewhere, including 12 in Nile Delta cities.

Mr Morsi's Muslim Brotherhood said there would be a week of daily rallies across Egypt.

Alaa Mohamed, a spokeswoman from the group British Egyptians for Democracy, told BBC Radio 5 live that "extreme force" had been used against peaceful protesters.

But Egypt's interior ministry said police had been authorised to use live ammunition "within a legal framework".

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