Saudis and UAE dash to back Egypt

Supporters of ousted president Mohamed Morsi in north-east Cairo yesterday called for his release. Picture: Getty
Supporters of ousted president Mohamed Morsi in north-east Cairo yesterday called for his release. Picture: Getty
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Egypt has named an interim prime minister as rich Gulf states poured in $8 billion (£5.4bn) in aid, trying to shore up the biggest Arab nation after troops killed dozens of Islamists.

Interim head of state Adli Mansour, under mounting pressure to plot a path back to democracy less than a week after the army overthrew Egypt’s first freely elected president, also announced a faster-than-expected timetable to hold elections in about six months.

A day after 55 people were killed when troops opened fire on Muslim Brotherhood supporters, Hazem el-Beblawi, a liberal economist and former finance minister, was yesterday named interim premier.

Former UN diplomat Mohamed ElBaradei, now a liberal party leader, was named deputy president for foreign affairs.

News quickly followed of the pledge of grants, loans and fuel from Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

Crucially, the choice of Mr Beblawi won the acceptance of the ultra-orthodox Islamist Nour Party – sometime ally of toppled president Mohamed Morsi and his Muslim Brotherhood. Nour leaders have been courted by the military-backed interim authorities to prove that Islamists will not be marginalised.

Mr Mansour, the judge named head of state by the army when it brought down Mr Morsi last week, decreed overnight that a parliamentary vote would be held in about six months, faster than many expected. That would be followed by a presidential election. An amended constitution would be put to a referendum.

Yet the worst day of violence in more than a year has left Egypt more divided than ever in its modern history. The Brotherhood is isolated and furious at Egyptians who passionately reject it.

The bloodshed has raised alarm among key donors such as the America and the European Union, as well as in Israel, with which Egypt has had a US-backed peace treaty since 1979. Rich Gulf Arab states, long suspicious of the Muslim Brotherhood, have shown fewer reservations. The UAE offered a grant of $1bn and loan of $2bn. Saudi offered $3bn in cash and loans, and $2bn of fuel. UAE foreign minister Abdullah bin Zayed visited Egypt yesterday, the most senior foreign official to arrive since Mr Morsi’s removal.

The Brotherhood said Monday’s violence was an unprovoked attack on worshippers holding peaceful dawn prayers outside a barracks where they believed Mr Morsi was being held. But many Cairo residents seemed blamed the Brotherhood for the deaths.

Thousands of Mr Morsi’s followers gathered to keep a vigil near a mosque in north-east Cairo. “Revolutionaries! Free people! We will complete the journey!” chanted a speaker as the crowd held aloft a wooden coffin draped in a flag.

The long-banned Brotherhood fears a return to the suppression it endured for decades under Mubarak.

“The only road map is the restoration of the president elected by the people,” said Hoda Ghaneya, 45, a Brotherhood women’s activist. “We will not accept less than that, even if they kill us all.”

Away from the camp, Brotherhood support is patchy in Cairo where banners fly from balconies with portraits of General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, the army chief who toppled Mr Morsi. In an address before today’s start of the holy month of Ramadan, Gen Sisi declared: “No party has the right to oppose the will of the nation.”

Egypt’s mainly state or liberal controlled media praised the army and denounced Monday’s violence as a terrorist provocation. Many Cairenes seemed to agree.

“Of course I condemn this: Egyptian versus Egyptian. But the people attacked the army, not the other way around,” said Abdullah Abdel Rayal, 58, shopping in a Cairo ­market.