Egypt's Brotherhood rebuffs talks after deadly clashes

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CAIRO — Islamist backers of Egypt’s deposed President Mohammed Morsi rebuffed reconciliation talks proposed by the country’s interim leadership and called for fresh rallies following unrest that left at least seven dead.

The Muslim Brotherhood will not join a new Cabinet or take part in talks, Hamza Zawba, a spokesman for the group’s political arm, the Freedom and Justice Party, said in a phone interview after pro-Morsi protests Monday degenerated into clashes that also left at least 261 wounded. An Islamist coalition that backs Morsi called for mass demonstrations tomorrow under the slogan “Insistence.”

The developments highlighted the challenges facing the interim government in its bid to stabilize a polarized country and revive a battered economy. Unrest and violence have continued to fester across Egypt since Morsi’s July 3 toppling by the military following mass rallies against the president. The move outraged his supporters and further deepened tensions and uncertainty over the transition that began with Hosni Mubarak’s departure from power in 2011.

“We believe this Cabinet is illegitimate, we’re not going to participate in talks,” Zawba said. “We were expecting the presidency to apologize for yesterday’s crackdown on protesters, instead they’re calling for talks? That’s nonsense.”

The Salafi Nour Party, which had been the only Islamist group to stand alongside the military when Morsi was deposed but sat out government formation talks to protest earlier violence, said it will also refuse ministerial posts.

“The presidency is not addressing the real problems,” the party’s assistant secretary-general, Shaaban Abdel-Alim, said by phone. “There’s a political conflict the presidency needs to address and find solutions for first before calling for talks.”

Their comments came after Ahmed El-Meslemani, media adviser to interim President Adly Mansour, said he expected most major Islamist groups to take part in the reconciliation initiative.

“The doors of the presidency are open and its hands are extended for everyone,” El-Meslemani said in a televised press conference. “We open our doors for everyone, including the Muslim Brotherhood and others, to be partners in the future.”

Even before the latest bout of violence, the Brotherhood and its political arm refused to deal with the new administration and demanded Morsi’s return to office.

Egypt’s default risk climbed after the clashes and rejection of reconciliation talks. Five-year credit default contracts rose 13 basis points to 675, according to data provider CMA.

Egyptian authorities arrested 401 people during last night’s clashes in Ramsis square, the state-run Middle East News Agency reported Tuesday, citing an unnamed security official.

Last week, dozens of Morsi supporters were killed in fighting with the army that both sides blamed on the other.

The presidency’s efforts to kick-start talks with Islamist representatives come in tandem with the selection of a new government that Prime Minister-designate Hazem El-Beblawi said could be sworn in as early as Tuesday.

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