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EU's Ashton meets Egyptian interim leaders, urges Morsi's release


09:17, July 18, 2013

CAIRO, July 17 (Xinhua) -- European Union (EU) foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton on Wednesday met with interim leaders of Egypt and urged the release of ousted President Mohamed Morsi if there are no charges against him.

After meeting with some Egyptian officials, Ashton said she has clearly told them that Morsi and all other arrested politicians should be released if there are no charges against them, state-run news agency MENA reported.

She meanwhile said she was assured that Morsi is safe and well- treated in custody, stressing that the EU wants to see Egypt smoothly heading toward democracy.

"I was assured he (Morsi) is well," Ashton said. "I would have liked to see him."

The deposed Islamist-oriented president, along with some of his fellow Muslim Brotherhood (MB) figures, is currently facing charges of involvement in spying and murdering protesters, among others.

The prosecution started reviewing relevant claims on Saturday and ordered freezing the assets of 14 leading Islamist figures including the MB's top leader Mohamed Badie, senior member Mohamed al-Beltagi, the MB's Freedom and Justice Party (FJP)'s deputy chief Essam al-Erian, and Islamic preacher Safwat Hegazi.

On Wednesday, the prosecution decided to extend the detention of eight MB leading figures for 15 days over charges of inciting violence and killings, including MB deputy chief Khairat al-Shater, former top leader Mahdi Akef, and FJP chairman Mohamed Saad al- Katatni. Akef and Katatni are also facing charges of insulting the judiciary.

According to Ashton, who wrapped up her two-day visit here Wednesday evening, Egypt is a strong country with a long history and the EU is willing to assist Egypt politically and economically, ruling out the possibility of the repetition of the Syrian scenario of internal conflict in Egypt.

She said Egypt and the EU are partners and friends and that she came here representing 28 European states that are interested in what is happening in the most populous Arab state, while wishing success for the course chosen by the people.

Ashton also met some of Morsi's supporters, including former Prime Minister Hesham Qandil, former local Development Minister Mohamed Ali Bishr and former Planning and International Cooperation Minister Amr Darrag, MENA said.

While Qandil declined to make any statements after the meeting, but Darrag said the Islamist delegation "has not come to ask the EU for anything but the meeting was requested by Ashton to find out the position of the forces that support legitimacy."

"The main purpose of the meeting is to clarify our position that is not related to persons or parties but to the future of democracy in Egypt," Darrag said.

"The EU has not offered a proposal for resolving the crisis in Egypt," Darrag said.

Further, Ashton met with representatives of the Rebel campaign that played a key role in ousting Morsi by collecting over 20 million petitions from citizens demanding Morsi's removal and calling for an early presidential election.

The Rebel campaign members told Ashton that "We will respect whoever respects the will of the Egyptian people, but whoever stands against our uprising will be the loser," according to the campaign's official website.

When Ashton met Egypt's interim President Adli Mansour, the two sides discussed the roadmap after ousting Morsi and the procedures for parliamentary and presidential elections, MENA quoted presidential spokesman Ahmed al-Mislimani as saying.

Al-Mislimani said the EU official also talked with transitional Prime Minister Hazem al-Beblawi the latest developments in Egypt and ways to boost bilateral ties between Egypt and the EU. He added that Ashton asserted the EU's support for boosting Egypt's economy and stability.

Also, Ashton met in the day with Defense Minister Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi and discussed issues of mutual interest and ways of enhancing cooperation, military spokesman Colonel Ahmed Mohamed Ali said in a statement.

The EU's top diplomat then met with Egypt's interim Vice President for Foreign Relations Mohamed ElBaradei, who invited the EU to monitor the upcoming parliamentary elections scheduled to be held in about six months.

"The meeting addressed the methods of EU support for the transitional process in Egypt to establish a democratic regime that represents all the Egyptian people," the presidency said in a statement after the meeting.

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