UK warns Egypt's ambassador over Cairo violence

Remains of Rabaah al-Adawiya mosque, Cairo on 15 August 2013 A burned-out mosque where supporters of former president Mohammed Morsi had set up a camp

Egypt's ambassador in London has been warned of Britain's "deep concern" over a bloody crackdown on supporters of former president Mohammed Morsi.

Ashraf El-Kholy was summoned to the Foreign Office where an official "condemned the use of force" in Cairo.

Mr El-Kholy later expressed his "regret" at the loss of life but said some protesters had fired on police.

An emergency meeting of the UN Security Council is being held after a request by the UK, France and Australia.

But the council is not expected to issue a statement or adopt a resolution after the meeting, which is taking place behind closed doors.

The official death toll has risen to 638 deaths nationwide as turmoil spreads across Egypt.

Leaders of Mr Morsi's Muslim Brotherhood claim that far more were killed in what they describe as a "massacre" at two protest camps in the capital.

A state of emergency was declared in Egypt's and the interim government has been the subject of worldwide condemnation.

Meanwhile, British Airways has said some of its flight times between London's Heathrow and Cairo had been changed to avoid a 1900 to 0600 government curfew.

The Foreign Office is advising Britons against all but essential travel to most parts of Egypt except for resorts on the Red Sea in South Sinai and on the Egyptian mainland in Red Sea governorate.

It says Cairo airport should be used only as a transit stop.

Sniper denial

A Foreign Office spokeswoman said: "We called in the Egyptian ambassador to express our deep concern at the escalating violence and unrest in Egypt.

Start Quote

The time has now come for the UK government to urge the US administration to suspend its $1.3bn military aid to Egypt”

End Quote Douglas Alexander Shadow foreign secretary

"Simon Gass, the FCO political director, condemned the use of force to clear the protests and urged the Egyptian authorities to act with the greatest restraint."

Egypt's interim prime minister Hazem el-Beblawi has praised the police for their "self-restraint" and said the government remained committed to an army-drafted roadmap calling for elections next year.

Mr El-Kholy said many of the protesters had been armed and the government's actions had been justified.

"The shooting is from both sides. People are resisting the authority. They are resisting the police," he told BBC Radio 4's The World at One.

"You have to maintain law and order because this is the obligation of any government or any state."

Speaking later at the Egyptian Cultural Bureau in central London, Mr El-Kholy showed journalists film footage he said was of protesters shooting at police with machine guns.

He said the police and army "did nothing but return fire" and added that demonstrators had been warned to leave the area.

Asked by a journalist about the death of British cameraman Mick Deane, Mr El-Kholy denied reports that the Sky News employee had been shot during a period of relative calm by a sniper positioned in a government building.

He said there were no snipers in the police, adding that "evidence and information" about the death was still being collected.

Obama condemns violence

Fareed El Shayyal, one of the Muslim Brotherhood's representatives in the UK, said it was "absolutely and completely untrue" that there had been shooting on both sides.

He claimed 3,000 "unarmed" people had been "killed in cold blood by the special units of the army and the security forces" and there were "no casualties" among the security forces.

"If a single shot came from one individual, it does not justify this well-planned and well-executed attack," he added.

Egypt's ambassador in London on the security forces' response: "It is not at all excessive. It's so human, and it's so well organised"

France and Germany have also summoned Egypt's ambassadors to express concern.

US President Barack Obama said the US "strongly condemns" and "deplores" the violence against Egyptian civilians, and he had cancelled joint military exercises with Egypt planned for next month.

But he stopped short of labelling the Egyptian military's recent takeover a coup, something that would have forced the US to cut off more than $1.3bn (£800m) in military aid every year.

'Suspend military aid'

Shadow foreign secretary Douglas Alexander said he believed the removal of Mr Morsi had been a "coup" but he understood why the UK and US had not used that term at the time.

"It was right for the United States to try, through quiet diplomacy, to influence the Egyptian military authorities towards a democratic path after their removal of President Morsi. Yet recent days have seen horrific bloodshed.

"The time has now come for the UK government to urge the US administration to suspend its $1.3bn military aid to Egypt.

"This suspension should be maintained while the US government's review into its relationship with the Egyptian state continues."

He also urged Foreign Secretary William Hague to call for an immediate meeting of EU foreign ministers to discuss whether aid to Egypt should be suspended.

Mr Alexander said Egypt's interim government should suspend its state of emergency and set a timetable for elections.

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