Two arrested in Egypt amid palpable tension (Roundup)

Last Updated: Wed, Aug 21, 2013 13:20 hrs

Cairo, Aug 21 (IANS) Egyptian authorities Wednesday arrested a hardliner Islamist preacher and a Muslim Brotherhood spokesman in what was otherwise a largely quiet day amid palpable tension.

Islamist preacher Safwat Hegazi, wanted for inciting violence, was trying to flee to Libya when he was arrested, Xinhua reported citing the official Egyptian news agency MENA.

Morad Mohamed Ali, media advisor of the Freedom and Justice Party, the political wing of the Brotherhood, was arrested at the Cairo International Airport, while he was about to board a plane to Rome.

On Monday, the Muslim Brotherhood's top leader Mohamed Badie was arrested.

Meanwhile, Egypt's Interim Prime Minister Hazem el-Beblawi said that he did not fear a civil war in his country and also warned the US that any cut in military aid would be a bad sign.

"Really, in truth, I do not fear civil war," Beblawi told ABC News, in his first interview since assuming the post last month after the ouster of Mohamed Morsi as president.

"But I do not exclude that we will have some continuous problems in the coming weeks. Perhaps coming months. But civil war and the type we have seen in some neighbours, I don't think that Egypt is on this path," he said.

Egypt has been undergoing a democratic transition since the fall of president Hosni Mubarak two years ago. In July this year, Mohamed Morsi, the first democratically elected president, was deposed by the armed forces after only one year in office.

The constitution was suspended and an interim government was then installed.

Beblawi also said that if the US decided to cut military aid to his country it "will be a bad sign and will badly affect the military for some time".

"We are sorry that at this moment there is a kind of misunderstanding (between the US and Egypt)," Beblawi said in the interview recorded in Cairo Tuesday.

"There is a lot of misunderstanding and I'm sure that the time will work to the benefit of both sides."

US President Barack Obama has strongly condemned the steps taken by the Egyptian interim government to quell the supporters of Morsi who have come out on the streets in that country demanding his reinstatement.

Obama also announced the cancellation of joint military exercises, saying the US's traditional cooperation with Egypt "cannot continue as usual".

However, the US administration has refused to suspend $1.3 billion in annual military aid, despite divisions in the Congress on whether to cut off aid to its important Middle East ally.

As for the interim government's role, he said that it was committed to a true democratic government in the country.

"We are very keen to end this transitional period. I definitely think that we're talking about between six and nine months we will have elections," he told the US news channel.

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