Egypt ups pressure on world powers over Syria
Cairo, June 16, 2013
Egyptian President Mohamed Mursi has urged world powers not to hesitate to enforce a no-fly zone over Syria as he threw the backing of the most populous Arab state firmly behind the revolt against the Iranian-backed Damascus government.
Addressing a rally called by Sunni Muslim clerics in Cairo, Mursi said he had cut all diplomatic ties with Damascus. He also warned Assad's ally, the Iranian-backed Lebanese Shi'ite militia Hezbollah, to pull back from fighting in Syria.
"Hezbollah must leave Syria. These are serious words," said Mursi, whose country hosted a conference of Sunni clerics this week who issued a call for holy war against Damascus.
"There is no space or place for Hezbollah in Syria," Mursi said.
The rally underscored the region's deepening sectarian rift. A cleric who spoke before Mursi described Shi'ites as heretics, infidels, oppressors and polytheists.
It was also a show of support for Mursi as his opponents mobilize for protests to demand early presidential elections.
Mursi waved Syrian and Egyptian flags as he entered the auditorium packed with 20,000 supporters. The crowd chanted: "From the free revolutionaries of Egypt: We will stamp on you, Bashar!"
Mursi, a Muslim Brotherhood politician, steered clear of direct references to Shi'ites and Iran but in a partial allusion to Tehran, he accused states in the region and beyond of feeding "a campaign of extermination and planned ethnic cleansing" in Syria.
"We decided today to entirely break off relations with Syria and with the current Syrian regime. We urge world powers not to hesitate to enforce a no-fly zone over Syria."
Western diplomats said on Friday that Washington was considering a limited no-fly zone over parts of Syria, but the White House said later that the United States had no national interest in pursuing that option.
Russia, an ally of Assad and fierce opponent of outside military intervention in Syria, said any attempt to impose a no-fly zone using F-16 fighter jets and Patriots based in Jordan would be illegal.
Mursi said he was organizing an urgent summit of Arab and other Islamic states to discuss the situation in Syria, where the United States has in recent days decided to take steps to arm the rebels.
Egypt's U.S.-funded and -trained army is among the most powerful in the Middle East. There has been no suggestion, however, that Egypt, a country steeped in poverty, should get involved in the fighting in Syria.
Mursi said: "The Egyptian people supports the struggle of the Syrian people, materially and morally, and Egypt, its nation, leadership ... and army, will not abandon the Syrian people until it achieves its rights and dignity."
The Brotherhood has joined calls this week from Sunni Muslim religious organizations for jihad against Assad and his Shi'ite allies.
Egypt has not taken an active role in arming the Syrian rebels, but an aide to Mursi said this week that Cairo would not stand in the way of Egyptians who wanted to fight in Syria.
It marked Mursi's second combative foreign policy speech in less than a week. On Monday, he said Egypt would keep "all options open" for dealing with a dispute with Ethiopia over a giant dam it is building on the Nile, though he said Cairo did not want war and stressed it would work diplomatically.
Mursi's liberal and leftist opponents are mobilizing for mass protests on June 30, the anniversary of Mursi coming to office, fuelling fears of possible further violence.
Mursi told his Islamist supporters at the rally that they must not be dragged into confrontations and that he would not tolerate any violence.-Reuters
More INTERNATIONAL NEWS Stories
- Military denies lost plane's flight to Malacca
- Investors monitoring Pimco after internal strife
- N Korea tanker ‘leaves Libya rebel port carrying oil’
- Malaysia plane incident not terror related: Interpol
- Crimea closes air space to commercial flights
- Missing Malaysian plane last seen At Malacca Strait
- Stolen passport holder on missing plane is Iranian
- China deploys 10 satellites to search for Malaysia jet
- Libya says halts tanker outside port; rebels deny it
- Libya orders military force to 'liberate' ports
- Big bananas: Chiquita, Fyffes merge
- Radar sweeps, dozens of aircraft, but no sign of plane
- N Korea tanker loads oil at Libya rebel port
- Gold drops as US growth optimism weighs
- Merkel raps Putin; Russia tightens grip on Crimea
- World 'at sea' over missing Malaysian jetliner
- Passports requiring probe were on Malaysia flight
- 40 killed in Yemen as Houthi fighters near capital
- Vietnam finds object in sea; search on
- $5bn poll spend to boost India economy
- Libya authorises use of force against Korean tanker
- Ukraine PM says he will go to US to discuss crisis
- Syrian journalist killed covering fighting
- Malaysian jet may have turned back before vanishing
- No sign of missing plane; Malaysia probes false passports
- Two Europeans not on board 'missing' Malaysian jet
- China draws red line on North Korea
- Saudi sentences three to death for 2003 bombing
- First bitcoin machine opens in UK
- US sanctions will boomerang, warns Russia