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Egypt Government Spokesman: There Wasn't A Peaceful Solution


Badr Abdel Atty(ph) is the spokesman for Egypt's foreign ministry. He joins us from Cairo now. Welcome to the program.

BADR ABDEL ATTY: Hello, sir.

SIEGEL: And the foreign ministry issued an official statement today regarding the deaths of Egyptians both in Cairo and also around the country. What is that statement? What does the Egyptian government have to say?

ATTY: Well, actually, the statement refers to the lengthy efforts exerted by the Egyptian transitional government with regard achieving reconciliation among the different people of the country and, of course, referring to the efforts to disperse the two sit-ins by dialogue in order to avoid the security option. But unfortunately, due to the failure of those efforts, there was no other option before the government.

SIEGEL: But, Mr. Abdel Atty, while you're stressing the efforts that were made toward reconciliation, the statement from the White House today is that this resort to force to clear the demonstrations, and I quote, "runs directly counter to the pledges made by the interim government to pursue reconciliation." What is your answer to the White House?

ATTY: Well, as you (unintelligible), we didn't have any kind of peaceful demonstrations. The demonstrators were using firearms, even bombs. Also, the most important statement by one of the leading figure of the Muslim Brotherhood when he referred that we will stop what's happening in Sinai the moment that the ex-president return back to power. So it was clear that we didn't have any peaceful demonstration, and...

SIEGEL: Mr. Abdel Atty, weren't the sit-ins in Cairo, the largest demonstrations, weren't they essentially nonviolent protest? They blocked traffic, but they weren't conducting acts of violence against Egyptians, were they?

ATTY: Absolutely it's not true. If you look to what happened over the last few days, you will find that those people were just storing a lot of ammunitions, a lot of heavy weapons in the two sit-ins. Also, they start to storm governmental and military establishments and buildings.

The government, over the last two weeks, allowed the Americans. The Deputy Secretary Bill Burns was here. They went and met with the team leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood in order to solve this issue through peaceful means. But unfortunately, the other side refused and closed all the doors. So there was no option but to apply the rule of law.

SIEGEL: Mr. Abdel Atty, yesterday in Washington, a senior Egyptian official spoke of guarantees against the use of - the military using force against protesters. He said these are Egyptians. These are our fellow citizens. You're speaking of them as terrorists, as an armed camp. No sense of regret over the lives lost in this action today?

ATTY: Well, two things. First of all, it wasn't the military. It was only the police forces who managed to disperse the two sit-ins. Secondly, we expressed our deep sorrow for the deaths and injuries of Egyptians on both sides, whether they are officers or soldiers or Egyptians who are sympathizers with the ex-president because at the end of the story, they are all Egyptians. And what we are focusing on after restoring order, we have to look to the future and we have to focus in order to achieve our endgame, which is building (unintelligible) democracy where all Egyptians are equal, without any discrimination based on color or gender or belief.

SIEGEL: Mr. Badr Abdel Atty, spokesman for the Egyptian foreign ministry, thank you very much for talking with us.

ATTY: Thank you, sir.

SIEGEL: Mr. Abdel Atty spoke to us earlier today. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.