Members of the Muslim Brotherhood and supporters of deposed Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi
Members of the Muslim Brotherhood and supporters of deposed Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi during a rally in Cairo, August 2, 2013. Photo by Reuters
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AP
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry: Came across as a lot more determined than President Obama. Photo by AP

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said Wednesday that the bloody government crackdown on protesters in Egypt that killed over 200 people and wounded some 2,000 was "deplorable," and Turkey urged the UN Security Council and Arab League to act quickly to stop a "massacre."

Iran warned of the risk of civil war after Egyptian security forces moved in on protesters seeking the reinstatement of toppled Islamist President Mohammed Morsi.

European leaders criticized the assault on a camp of pro-Morsi protesters in Cairo, calling for restraint and a return to meaningful dialogue to defuse Egypt's political stand-off.

Their comments came amid an announcement by Egypt's interim vice president, Mohamed ElBaradei, that he was resigning from his post, for he can no longer take responsibility for the goings on in the country. In a resignation letter to Interim President Adly Mansour, ElBaradei said that "the beneficiaries of what happened today are those who call for violence, terrorism and the most extreme groups," he said. "It has become difficult for me to continue bearing responsibility for decisions that I do not agree with and whose consequences I fear. I cannot bear the responsibility for one drop of blood."

The reported death toll varied. Egyptian authorities said 235 people were killed and more than 2,000 wounded in clashes between security forces and protesters. It was also reported that Egypt's Health Ministry put the death toll at 278.   

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said the United States strongly condemns Egypt's violence, calls for the state of emergency to end as soon as possible and urges all sides to seek a political solution.

"Today's events are deplorable and they run counter to Egyptian aspirations for peace, inclusion and genuine democracy," Kerry told reporters at the State Department. "Egyptians inside and outside the government need to take a step back, they need to calm the situation and avoid further loss of life," he added.

Kerry said the United States had urged the interim government "at every occasion" against using force to resolve the political stalemate with the Muslim Brotherhood.

White House spokesman Josh Earnest urged Egypt's military-backed authorities to respect the basic human rights of the Egyptian people and said the United States strongly opposed Cairo's declaration of a one-month state of emergency.

"The world is watching what is happening in Cairo. We urge the government of Egypt - and all parties in Egypt - to refrain from violence and resolve their differences peacefully," Earnest told reporters at a briefing.

But he gave no sign that Washington was now prepared to immediately cut off its $1.3 billion in annual military aid to Egypt, an important regional ally. Earnest did say, however, that U.S. assistance was under review, as it has been for weeks.

"We have repeatedly called on the Egyptian military and security forces to show restraint and for the government to respect the universal rights of its citizens, just as we have urged protesters to demonstrate peacefully," he said.

U.S. President Barack Obama's administration has found little leverage to influence events in Egypt. The United States initially said it would review whether the Egyptian military's removal of the elected Morsi was a coup, a designation that would force Washington to cut off its assistance.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said international silence had paved the way for the Egyptian security clampdown, which triggered violence in many areas beyond the capital.

"It is clear that the international community, by supporting the military coup and remaining silent over previous massacres instead of protecting democracy and constitutional legitimacy in Egypt, has encouraged the current administration to carry out today's intervention," Erdogan said in a statement.

"The international community, especially the UN Security Council and Arab League, must act immediately to stop this massacre," said Erdogan, whose government is Islamist-rooted.

His office said he had spoken to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and separately to all permanent members of the Security Council this week about the crisis.

Embassy protest

Some 300 protesters gathered outside the Egyptian embassy in the Turkish capital Ankara, then went to the gates of the U.S. embassy, where they chanted anti-U.S. slogans and held up pictures of Morsi.

Turkey has become one of the sharpest international critics of what it has termed an "unacceptable coup" in Egypt, which followed weeks of widespread protests against Morsi's rule.

Iran, whose hardline Islamist leadership put down post-election unrest by force four years ago, denounced the Egyptian bloodshed and called for a "national dialogue and democratic process".

In a statement, the Foreign Ministry expressed deep concern and added: "Undoubtedly the current approach ... strengthens the likelihood of civil war in this great Islamic country."

Qatar took the lead in Arab criticism of the violence, condemning the attack on the protest camp and urging Egyptians to return to dialogue to ease the crisis polarizing the Arab world's most populous nation.

A Qatari Foreign Ministry official, quoted by the state news agency QNA, said Egyptian authorities should "refrain from the security option in dealing with peaceful protests, and preserve the lives of Egyptians at protest sites".

Qatar strongly endorsed Morsi's Muslim Brotherhood government before he was ousted by the army a year after becoming the first freely elected leader in Egyptian history.

"Qatar believes that the safest and guaranteed way to resolve the crisis is a peaceful way based on dialogue between parties that have to live together in a pluralist social and political system," the official said.

Qatari aid

Energy-rich Qatar, among the world's wealthiest states and under authoritarian dynastic rule, gave Egypt e7 billion in aid after his election last year following the 2011 uprising that toppled longtime autocrat Hosni Mubarak.

In the Palestinian Gaza Strip, a spokesman for the ruling Islamist Hamas movement, which arose out of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood, said Hamas "condemns the massacres ... and calls for an end to bloodshed and a halt to the killing of peaceful protesters".

European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said she was monitoring the situation with great disquiet.

"Confrontation and violence is not the way forward to resolve key political issues. I deplore the loss of lives, injuries and destruction in Cairo and other places in Egypt. I call on the security forces to exercise utmost restraint and on all Egyptian citizens to avoid further provocations and escalation," she said in a statement.

Britain, France, Germany, Spain and Norway all appealed for mutual restraint by Egypt's factions and for negotiations to resolve the crisis. Britain said it had advised its citizens visiting Egypt to avoid demonstrations and large gatherings.

"France calls on all sides to ... hold back from disproportionate use of force," French Foreign Ministry spokesman Vincent Floreani said.

Russia's Foreign Ministry echoed the European Union states, saying forbearance by all sides in Egypt was of "the highest national interest". It said it was suspending the work of its Cairo consular section as a precaution for two days.