Egypt minister urges restraint after violent clashes

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Media caption,
Pro-Morsi protesters say they will continue their sit-in in Cairo until their demands are met

Egypt's new foreign minister has urged restraint, a day after clashes in Cairo which killed at least 70 people.

In a BBC interview, Nabil Fahmy said all sides "need to stop inciting violence and using violence".

On Saturday supporters of the ousted president Mohammed Morsi clashed with security forces - and thousands are continuing a sit-in at a city mosque.

Meanwhile interim President Adly Mansour has authorised his PM to grant the army powers to arrest civilians.

The BBC's Jim Muir in Cairo says some people see this as an ominous sign - a prelude to a crackdown on the protest camp around the Rabaa al-Adawiya mosque.

Interior Minister Mohamed Ibrahim has repeatedly warned that the camp would be dispersed "soon" - but the protesters remain defiant.

There were more clashes elsewhere on Sunday, with two people killed in cities north of Cairo - Kafr el-Zayat and Port Said.

Over the weekend 10 Islamists were also killed by the army in the Sinai peninsula, where militants have stepped up attacks, state-run news Mena news agency reported.

Foreign pressure

Speaking to the BBC, Mr Fahmy said his government would like to move forward "but that requires cessation of violence and incitement".

Responding to criticism that some members of the army and police had gone too far on Saturday, he said: "If you have people shooting each other on both sides then you're obviously going to have to casualties."

The government initially denied that security forces fired live rounds on Saturday, saying only tear gas had been used.

In the wake of Saturday's killings, the interim authorities have come under intense pressure - from senior figures both at home and abroad.

The Grand Imam of Al-Azhar mosque - the highest Sunni Muslim authority in Egypt - has called for an investigation, while the vice-president of the interim government, Mohamed ElBaradei, said that excessive force was used.

US Secretary of State John Kerry condemned the violence and called on the Egyptian authorities to "respect the right of peaceful assembly and freedom of expression".

Tension at the mosque

The news that Prime Minister Hazem al-Beblawi now has the right to grant the military powers to arrest civilians has added to the tense situation surrounding the mosque, according says the BBC's Jim Muir in Cairo.

Thousands of Morsi supporters, some with their families, have made the mosque the focal point of their round-the-clock protest.

They want Mr Morsi - who was removed from power by the army on 3 July - reinstated.

Media caption,
Dr Hesham Ibrahim described scenes at the hospital as like "hell"

Speakers from the pro-Morsi Muslim Brotherhood, whom the protesters support, say they will not back down from their demands.

But Human Rights Watch researcher Priyanka Motaparthy, who saw some of the casualties on Saturday, said she was concerned about what might happen if the security forces did move in to clear the protest site.

"We are very very fearful as to what the consequences would be," she told the BBC.

"We've seen the police repeatedly use excessive force, resulting in major loss of human life."

The army removed Mr Morsi, Egypt's first democratically elected president, after mass protests against his rule.

Last week it called on supporters to take to the streets to give its action a mandate.

Tens of thousands responded by flooding to Cairo's Tahrir Square on Friday night.

Mr Morsi has been formally remanded in custody at an undisclosed location for an initial 15-day period, according to a judicial order.

He has been accused of the "premeditated murder of some prisoners, officers and soldiers" when he and several Muslim Brotherhood leaders were freed during a breakout at a Cairo prison in January 2011.

He is alleged to have plotted attacks on jails in the uprising that overthrew President Hosni Mubarak.

Mr Morsi is also accused of conspiring with the Palestinian militant group Hamas, which governs the Gaza Strip and has strong links with the Muslim Brotherhood.