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US envoy calls for dialogue, end to violence in Egypt

US Deputy Secretary of State William Burns in Cairo on July 15, 2013
US Deputy Secretary of State William Burns listens as he meets with Egypt's interim president at the Egyptian presidential palace in Cairo on July 15, 2013.

Senior US diplomat Bill Burns on Monday urged Egypt's divided factions to engage in dialogue and end violence, two weeks after the military ousted the country's first freely elected president.

"The first priority must be to end violence and incitement, prevent retribution, and begin a serious and substantive dialogue among all sides and all political parties," Burns said.

Burns also condemned a fortnight of deadly attacks in the restive Sinai peninsula, but said the situation in war-ravaged Syria would not be repeated in Egypt, according to an Arabic translation.

"I don't think that Egypt is in danger of repeating the tragedy that we see in Syria today."

The visit by the under secretary of state is the first to Egypt by a senior US official since the military toppled Islamist president Mohamed Morsi in a popularly backed coup on July 3.

Morsi's overthrow after massive nationwide protests demanding his resignation has plunged Egypt into turmoil.

Burns was speaking after holding talks with army chief Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, military-appointed president Adly Mansour and caretaker prime minister Hazem al-Beblawi.

Tamarod, the movement that spearheaded the grassroots campaign against Morsi, said it rejected an invitation to meet the US envoy on Monday, citing Washington's "interference" in Egypt and its failure to support their cause from the outset.

"We rejected the invitation... because the United States did not stand with the Egyptian people from the beginning," Islam Hammam, one of the group's organisers, told AFP.

A State Department spokeswoman confirmed Burns also did not meet with any members of Morsi's Muslim Brotherhood, who say the Islamist president's ouster was an affront to democracy.

Washington has refrained from saying Morsi was the victim of a coup, which would legally require a freeze on some $1.5 billion in desperately needed US military and economic assistance to Cairo.

The United States has also called for the release of the deposed president, who Egypt's interim leaders say is being held in a "safe place, for his own safety".

Burns reiterated Washington's call for the army to halt its arbitrary arrests of Brotherhood members.

"We've called on the military to avoid any politically motivated arrests and we have also called upon those who differ with the government to adhere to their absolute obligation to participate peacefully."

On Sunday, two influential US Republican senators, Lindsey Graham and John McCain, urged the administration to cut American aid to Egypt in response to the army's ouster of Morsi.

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