Gen. Sisi talks tough but also says there is ‘room for everyone in Egypt’

Egyptian military and the opposition Muslim Brotherhood showed no signs of pursuing a political dialogue to resolve differences as the interim government debated a proposal to ban the Islamist party, which had issued a fresh call for street demonstrations on Sunday.

Headed by provisional President Adly Mansour, the Cabinet was discussing the possibility of banning the Brotherhood, which is registered as a Non-Governmental Organisation (NGO). A ban, if imposed, is likely to drive the group, which has a history of indulging in conspiratorial politics in most of its 85 years in existence, underground. The Brotherhood is also likely to find it difficult to raise funds in case its legal existence is nullified.

The interim government has so far not shown any signs of budging from its position of seeking a military solution. Nor does the Brotherhood seem inclined to shift track towards negotiations.

Despite losing hundreds of activists since the July 3 military takeover — with violence peaking on Wednesday when security forces demolished two of its major encampments in Cairo — the Brotherhood has issued a call for serial demonstrations that are to last a week. On Sunday, nine marches were planned in Cairo — six that were to stream from the Brotherhood stronghold of Giza and three, which were to head towards Heliopolis, where the presidential palace and a number of military facilities are located. The Brotherhood later cancelled two of the demonstrations citing presence of snipers at rooftops along the route.

Defence Minister General Abdel Fattah El-Sisi — the face of the coup that deposed President Mohamed Morsy — sent mixed signals on Sunday in the wake of the crisis.

He warned on his Facebook page that anyone who “imagines violence will make the state and Egyptians kneel must reconsider; we will never be silent in the face of the destruction of the country”.

Yet he held out an olive branch for the Brotherhood, by pointing out that there was “room for everyone in Egypt”, and the military did not intend to seize power.

Analysts say the government has been encouraged to pursue a hardline because of the strong backing of key Gulf States — especially Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) — which have pledged an aid package of $12 billion for the interim government.

The support is enabling the interim government to rebuff western pressures for dialogue and political accommodation with the Brotherhood.

This article has been corrected for a typographical error.

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