CAIRO - Egypt's military chief declared Sunday that the country has "room for everybody," but urged supporters of ousted President Mohamed Morsy to reconsider their resistance to the current military-backed government.
Gen. Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, Egypt's defense minister, spoke after days of clashes between pro-Morsy demonstrators and security forces that left hundreds dead -- and ahead of new protests scheduled around the country after Sunday's evening prayers.
"Egypt has room for everybody, and we are keen to save every drop of Egyptian blood," he said. But he added, "Securing the state will remain the main objective and the sole mission of the army, the police and the Egyptian people."
Al-Sisi led the coup that toppled Morsy, Egypt's first democratically elected leader, amid widespread anti-government demonstrations in early July. The coup installed a new government led by the former chief justice of the country's supreme court but triggered weeks of protests by the Muslim Brotherhood, the long-supressed Islamist movement that brought Morsy to power.
In his address and a statement posted online, al-Sisi urged Morsy's supporters "to review their national positions and realize very well that the legitimacy belongs to the people."
"The Egyptian people are free to choose whoever to govern them, while the armed forces will remain the safeguard of the will of the people and of their choice," he said.
The Muslim Brotherhood canceled a march planned for Roxy Square in Heliopolis, a suburb of Cairo, due to concerns about snipers on routes. But it said other marches scheduled around Egypt were still set for Sunday evening.
On Saturday, Egyptian security forces arrested hundreds of people from a mosque where throngs of Morsy supporters were hiding.
The 353 arrested from the Al-Fateh mosque in Cairo included several foreigners -- three Irish, one Turkish and one Syrian, the Egyptian Interior Ministry said. The ministry also said two automatic rifles and 24 Molotov cocktail bottles were confiscated.
Hundreds of Morsy supporters had been holed up in the Al-Fateh mosque, which became an epicenter of confrontations between protesters and the military Saturday.
Government says news biased toward Morsy, Islamists
Morsy's supporters say the military-backed interim government instigated the violence that killed hundreds, starting with a dawn raid at two pro-Morsy protest camps last week that left more than 500 dead. The government urged the global community to listen to its side, accusing international media of being sympathetic to Morsy and the Muslim Brotherhood.
In a statement also released Sunday, the interim government said it would set up a National Council for Human Rights and document "all the events that took place during the crisis." But it also said it would set up a National Committee for Media and questioned whether the Qatar-based satellite network Al Jazeera was operating legally inside Egypt.
And members of the Foreign Ministry showed journalists a video-and-photo montage Sunday of recent carnage, blaming "terrorists" for the chaos. Foreign Minister Nabil Fahmy acknowledged the country is in a state of uncertainty. He said the interim government is "trying to identify the political identity so we can move forward."
"We are still open to any ideas or suggestions" from the global community, Fahmy told reporters Sunday. But in the end, "the decision is Egyptian."
Fahmy also said he greatly appreciated the foreign aid that Egypt gets. The United States, for example, gives Egypt more than $1 billion a year.
"We are very thankful for the aid. But it should not be targeted," Fahmy said. "The threat of stopping aid in this period is not acceptable."
The Obama administration is facing new calls from U.S. lawmakers to cut off that aid following last week's violence. But Saudi Arabia has pledged $5 billion in grants and loans to the new government, while the United Arab Emirates has said it would give $1 billion to Egypt and lend it an additional $2 billion as an interest-free central bank deposit.
ElBaradei takes off
Amid the turmoil, Cairo's stock market plunged nearly 4% on Sunday. And Mohamed ElBaradei, who stepped down last week as interim vice president, boarded a flight to Austria, after the interim president accepted his resignation, the state-run EGYNews service reported.
The former International Atomic Energy Agency chief was one of Morsy's biggest critics. But ElBaradei said in his resignation Wednesday that he didn't agree with decisions carried out by the ruling government and "cannot be responsible for a single (drop of) blood."
Meanwhile, the turmoil in Egypt continues to cause ripples overseas. Members of the European Union announced Sunday that the body will "urgently review in the coming days its relations with Egypt and adopt measures" aimed at ending violence, resuming political dialogue and returning to a democratic process.
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