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Tuesday, December 6, 2016

WASHINGTON (AFP) – U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry led the widespread global condemnation Wednesday of Egypt’s bloody crackdown on supporters of ousted president Mohamed Morsi, branding the events in Cairo “deplorable.”

The United States did not initially criticize the overthrow of Morsi, Egypt’s first democratically elected and Islamist leader, and has avoided using the term “coup,” which under U.S. law would have halted some $1.3 billion in annual military aid to Cairo.

But Kerry’s comments, in which he called for elections, appeared to fully recant his previously expressed support for Egypt’s military-backed government, on which he had recently backtracked.

“Today’s events are deplorable and they run counter to Egyptian aspirations for peace, inclusion and genuine democracy,” Kerry told reporters.

“The interim government and the military — which together possess the preponderance of power in this confrontation — have a unique responsibility to prevent further violence and to offer constructive options for an inclusive peaceful process across the political spectrum.

“This includes amending the constitution and holding parliamentary and presidential elections, which the interim government itself has called for,” he said.

Kerry said a political solution was the only option, but acknowledged: “It has been made much, much harder and much, much more complicated by the events of today.”

The United Nations, the European Union, Britain, France, Iran, Qatar and Turkey strongly denounced the use of force by the military-backed interim government to clear two protest camps in Cairo.

The action, which was followed by the declaration of a month-long state of emergency, has resulted in at least 278 deaths — including 43 policemen — according to Egyptian officials.

U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, who had urged both sides to exercise restraint, expressed regret that “Egyptian authorities chose instead to use force to respond to the ongoing demonstrations,” according to a statement by his spokesman.

Earlier, White House spokesman Josh Earnest said the United States “strongly condemns” the violence against protesters and urges the military to show restraint.

British Foreign Secretary William Hague said he was deeply concerned at the escalating violence and unrest.

“I condemn the use of force in clearing protests and call on the security forces to act with restraint,” Hague said.

European Union foreign affairs chief Catherine Ashton, in a sharpened statement, urged Egypt’s rulers to end a month-long state of emergency imposed in the wake of the crackdown.

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