Egypt nears boiling point ahead of weekend protests

June 28, 2013

Egypt’s opposition plans massive demonstrations, South African protesters target Obama, and Syria peace talk date slips again. Today is Friday, June 28 – a good day to #FF @ReutersWorld – and this is the World Wrap, brought to you by @dwbronner and @clarerrrr.

Egyptians hold up signs as they dive during a protest against Egyptian President Mohamed Mursi, underwater in Colored Canyon in Sharm el-Sheikh, about 289 miles southeast of the capital Cairo, June 28, 2013. REUTERS/Stringer

Out with the not-so-old. Protesters in Egypt plan to gather en masse today and over the weekend, with huge demonstrations expected on Sunday. The opposition will call for President Mohamed Mursi to step down and hold early elections, while his backers are planning their own show of support. Egyptian clerics have warned of ‘civil war’ ahead of rallies:

“Vigilance is required to ensure we do not slide into civil war,” the Al-Azhar institute said. In a statement broadly supportive of Islamist head of state Mohamed Mursi, it blamed “criminal gangs” who besieged mosques for street violence which the Brotherhood said has killed five supporters in a week… There was no immediate sign of trouble as Islamists gathered round a Cairo mosque after weekly prayers to show support for Mursi. His opponents hope millions will turn out on Sunday to demand new elections, a year to the day since he was sworn in as Egypt’s first freely elected leader.

Opponents were unimpressed by Mursi’s hours-long, televised public address on Wednesday. Egypt’s opposition complains of economic stagnation, poor standards of living and accuses the ruling Muslim Brotherhood of imposing Islamic rule, while the Brotherhood paints some of its opponents as Mubarak loyalists. The Brotherhood blamed anti-Mursi activists for shooting one of its members dead overnight at a party office. The military, which helped realize Mubarak’s ouster last year, is prepared to step in if the protests turn violent.

Protesters carry placards as they protest against the visit of U.S. President Barack Obama in Pretoria, June 28, 2013. REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko

Bad timing for Obama trip. Anti-Obama protesters rally ahead of his arrival in South Africa today, stationed a few blocks away from the hospital where Nelson Mandela remains in critical condition:

Nearly 1,000 trade unionists, Muslim activists and South African Communist Party members marched through the capital to the U.S. Embassy where they burned a U.S. flag in protest, calling Obama’s foreign policy “arrogant and oppressive”… South African critics of Obama have focused in particular on his support for U.S. drone strikes overseas, which they say have killed hundreds of innocent civilians, and his failure to fulfill a pledge to close the U.S. military detention center at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba housing terrorism suspects.

White House officials said they will defer to Mandela’s family on whether to visit or not. On his first extended trip to the continent, Obama faces critics disappointed by his lack of interest in the region and a South African nation distracted by the failing health of a beloved leader.

U.S. President Barack Obama (L) meets with Russian President Vladimir Putin during the G8 Summit at Lough Erne in Enniskillen, Northern Ireland, June 17, 2013. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

Don’t hold your breath for Syria conference. The already-fragile Syrian peace talks introduced by the U.S. and Moscow last month are becoming even less likely:

Washington and Moscow have been trying since May to organize an international peace conference to bring an end to the violence. But hopes that such a conference will take place anytime soon – if at all – are fading quickly… The point of the conference was to revive a plan adopted last year in Geneva. At that time, Washington and Moscow agreed on the need for a transitional Syrian government, but left open the question of whether Assad could participate in the process.

Assad’s forces captured a border town close to Lebanon this week as the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a pro-opposition monitoring group, reported the death toll in the two-year conflict has risen to over 100,000.

Nota Bene: Iran signaled no change of course on its nuclear program, despite this month’s election of the relatively moderate candidate Hassan Rohani as president.


Ancient treasure – Archaeologists find an untouched royal tomb that predates the Inca. (The Los Angeles Times)

Living big in Kabul – A small Afghan elite lives the high life in glittering apartment complexes. (The Guardian)

Giving the Taliban the slip – A French aid worker describes his escape after being abducted. (BBC)

Gay proxy wars – Christian and LGBT groups bring the battle for gay rights to the Caribbean. (The Atlantic)

Dear South Africa – Richard Poplak’s scathing response to the foreign media’s coverage of Mandela’s health. (The Daily Maverick)

From the File:

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