Obama asks Republican senators to visit Egypt

John McCain and Lindsey Graham accept invite, warning against recent violence and saying they will press for elections.

    Barack Obama, the US president, has asked two senior Republican senators to travel to Egypt to meet with its military leaders and the opposition, as Cairo's allies struggle with how to address the turmoil convulsing the country.

    The invite, announced on Tuesday, came amid a visit to the Arab world's most populous nation by Catherine Ashton, the European Union foreign policy chief, who met with the deposed president Mohamed Morsi in his first known contact with the outside world since he was toppled by the army earlier this month.

    "The president asked ... [John] McCain and myself to go to Egypt next week, so we're trying to find a way to get there," Republican Senator Lindsey Graham said.

    He said the pair wanted to "go over and reinforce in a bipartisan fashion the message that we have to move to civilian control, that the military is going to have to, you know, allow the country to have new elections and move toward an inclusive, democratic approach".

    Graham added that "killing the opposition is becoming more and more like a coup".

    More than 200 people have been killed since Morsi's removal on July 3. 

    Held incommunicado

    In a news conference on Tuesday, Ashton said Morsi, who is currently being held in an unknown location, "has access to information, in terms of TV, newspapers, so we were able to talk about the situation".

    She refused to comment on the substance of their conversation, saying "I told him that I was not going to represent his views".

    Morsi has been held incommunicado since the military removed him from power.

    Early on Wednesday, the state news agency confirmed that a delegation led by former Malian President Alfa Omar Konari also held a one-hour long meeting with the deposed president.

    Egypt's authorities say Morsi is being investigated for charges, including murder, stemming from a 2011 jailbreak when he escaped detention during the revolution that toppled longtime president Hosni Mubarak.

    Political turmoil has divided Egypt, with hundreds of thousands taking to the streets in rival rallies for, and against, military rule.

    Tension increased further after scores were killed at a rally in support of Morsi in Cairo on Saturday. 

    Monday's meeting with Ashton came as Morsi's supporters marched towards security headquarters in Cairo, despite a warning from the National Defence Council that it would take "decisive and firm action" against demonstrators if they went beyond their right to peaceful protest.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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