Egypt's Premier Pledges to Protect Democracy, Restore Security

Caretaker Prime Minister Hazem al-Beblawy says his government trying to balance firmness and decisiveness in its measures, more than a week after the interim rulers declared a nationwide state of emergency.

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Egypt's military-backed government Saturday pledged to protect democracy and restore security to the troubled country.

Caretaker Prime Minister Hazem al-Beblawy said his government tried to balance firmness and decisiveness in its measures, more than a week after the interim rulers declared a nationwide state of emergency.

Security has been a major issue in Egypt since the 2011 uprising that forced Hosni Mubarak out of power.

Turmoil in Egypt has deepened this month in the wake of a crackdown by security forces on two major sit-ins held in Cairo to demand the reinstatement of elected president Mohammed Morsi whom the army deposed on July 3.

The ensuing violence killed some 1,000 people nationwide, including more than 100 policemen.

The government imposed a dusk-to-dawn curfew in 14 of the country's 27 provinces as part of the state of emergency.

The police's clampdown on pro-Morsi vigils drew international condemnation, especially from Europe and the United States. However, the Gulf states expressed support for the military-installed administration.

Yet, al-Beblawy said Saturday that some "foreign stances changed slowly towards Egypt but others need some time to correct their thoughts about what is happening in Egypt."

His statement came one day after US President Barack Obama ruled out cutting more than 1 billion dollars in annual military aid to Egypt over the killing of hundreds of Islamists in the crackdown.

Obama said his administration was currently "doing a full evaluation of the US-Egyptian relationship."

The US gives Egypt 1.5 billion dollars in annual military and economic aid.

Obama last week cancelled US-Egyptian military exercises that were planned for next month. The United States has also delayed delivery of four F-16 aircraft over the unrest.

Al-Beblawy also defended Mubarak's release from prison on Thursday, saying it was in accordance with the law.

Revolutionary groups, who forced Mubarak's ouster in 2011, have condemned his release as a "deviation from the revolution."

Mubarak, who still faces a retrial on charges of killing protesters during the uprising that ended his 30-year rule, is now under house arrest at a military hospital. His retrial is to resume Sunday.

In Sinai, police and army forces Saturday killed four gunmen and arrested six in a crackdown in the volatile peninsula, a security official said.

Security forces besieged the gunmen who were hiding in schools in the town of Sheikh Zuwaid in northern Sinai before attacking them, the official said on the condition of anonymity.

The remote desert region has seen regular attacks by suspected Islamist militants on security forces since Mubarak was toppled. The rate of attacks has surged since the military overthrew Morsi, Egypt's first democratically elected president.

A Muslim Brotherhood-led alliance vowed to continue protests despite a relentless clampdown on Islamists.

"The alliance confirms that the arrest of its leaders will not weaken it but rather increases its insistence and unity in order to reach all its goals and commitment to legitimacy, rejection of the coup and speedy trial for the killers of the revolutionaries," the alliance said in a statement.

Hundreds of Morsi's backers, including top leaders in his Muslim Brotherhood group, have been rounded up since his toppling.

Supporters of Muslim Brotherhood and ousted Egyptian President Mohamed Mursi protesting in Cairo August 23, 2013. Credit: Reuters

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