Egypt politicians renounce violence at crisis talks

Thu Jan 31, 2013 8:48am EST
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By Tom Perry and Peter Graff

CAIRO (Reuters) - Egypt's feuding politicians renounced violence on Thursday after being summoned by the country's most influential Muslim scholar to talks to end the deadliest unrest since President Mohamed Mursi took power.

It remains to be seen whether the pledge to end confrontation will halt a week of bloodshed on the streets that killed nearly 60 people. Opposition groups did not cancel new demonstrations scheduled for Friday.

But participants at the meeting, including leaders of Mursi's Muslim Brotherhood and its secular rivals, described their joint statement as a major step towards ending a conflict that has made the most populous Arab state seem all but ungovernable two years after an uprising toppled autocrat Hosni Mubarak.

The meeting was convened by Sheikh Ahmed al-Tayyeb, head of the thousand-year-old al-Azhar university and mosque, one of the few institutions still seen as neutral in a society that has become increasingly polarized.

He told politicians that a national dialogue, "in which all elements of Egyptian society participate, without any exclusion, is the only tool to resolve any problems or differences.

"Political work has nothing to do with violence or sabotage and the welfare of everyone and the fate of our nation depends on respect for the rule of law," the sheikh said.

Participants signed a document pledging to renounce violence and agreed to set up a committee of politicians from rival groups to work out a program for further talks.

"We come out of the meeting with a type of optimism," liberal politician Mohamed ElBaradei said. "Each of us will do what we can, with goodwill, to build trust once again among the factions of the Egyptian nation."   Continued...

Saad al-Katatni, head of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice party, talks during a news conference next to former Egyptian foreign minister Amr Moussa (L) and Egyptian liberal politician Mohamed ElBaradei (R) after their meeting in Cairo January 31, 2013. REUTERS/Asmaa Waguih