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Disorder in Egypt generals’ plan

Appointment of ElBaradei as prime minister in dispute

Protesters who opposed Egypt’s first democratically elected president, Mohammed Morsi, held placards on Saturday in Tahrir Square representing people killed in demonstrations.

Spencer Platt/Getty Images

Protesters who opposed Egypt’s first democratically elected president, Mohammed Morsi, held placards on Saturday in Tahrir Square representing people killed in demonstrations.

CAIRO — Egypt’s interim president, Adly Mansour, took steps Saturday to consolidate his authority by naming a temporary prime minister, but his office later backed away from a report that he had selected Mohamed ElBaradei, the Nobel Prize-winning diplomat, for the post.

While naming ElBaradei would give the generals who ousted the country’s elected Islamic president a recognizable face likely to appeal to secularists and to the West, Mansour spokesman Ahmed el-Musalamani said the appointment is still under discussion.

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A senior opposition official, Munir Fakhry Abdelnur, said the ultraconservative Salafi el-Nour party objected to ElBaradei’s appointment and mediation was underway, the Associated Press reported.

The elevation of ElBaradei, who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2005 for his work with the International Atomic Energy Agency, would be a drastic shift for a man who was an internationally known advocate for the toppling of President Hosni Mubarak in 2011 but does not enjoy wide popularity in the Egyptian streets.

Tens of thousands of Mohammed Morsi’s supporters rallied for a third day near a mosque in a Cairo neighborhood that is a stronghold of Islamists, shouting angry slogans against Wednesday’s toppling of Morsi, the country’s first democratically elected president. No major clashes were reported a day after violence killed at least 36 people nationwide and injured about 1,400.

ElBaradei said in an interview last week that he had worked hard to convince Western powers of what he called the necessity of ousting Morsi, contending that the president had bungled the country’s transition to an inclusive democracy.

ElBaradei won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2005 for his work with the International Atomic Energy Agency.

Getty Images/File

ElBaradei won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2005 for his work with the International Atomic Energy Agency.

In the interview, ElBaradei also defended the widening arrests of Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood allies and the shutdown of Islamist television networks that followed the removal of Morsi.

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Since Egypt’s revolution, ElBaradei has remained more of a spokesman for the liberal opposition to Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood than an effective participant in the political process.

His appointment would add to Islamist complaints that the country’s new rulers are swiftly undoing the Islamists’ wins in all postrevolutionary elections by appointing figures whose true popularity among Egyptians has never been put to the test.

The possible nomination of ElBaradei was criticized Saturday at an Islamist sit-in in the Cairo suburb of Nasr City, where supporters of Morsi have vowed to remain until he is reinstated as president.

Ashraf Abu al-Ela, an English teacher, called the nomination “a direct insult to us.” He said ElBaradei had never contributed to Egypt and accused him of being anti-Islam. “He has failed in reading even one verse of the Koran,” he said.

Polls taken before the 2012 presidential election showed that many Egyptians harbored doubts about ElBaradei. The years he spent in Western capitals as an international diplomat raised questions about his authenticity as an Egyptian, and he continued to travel extensively even after his return to Egypt in the early days of the 2011 revolution.

Earlier Saturday, Egyptians buried their dead and treated their wounded while struggling to come to terms with widespread street violence.

Rubble, shattered glass, and spent shotgun shells littered intersections and bridges in Cairo, where battles between Islamist supporters of Morsi and those celebrating his removal raged into the early morning.

Many were shocked by the level of violence and by the abundance of guns in the hands of the combatants, whose stark disagreement over who should be ruling the country followed them into hospital wards. A Coptic priest was shot dead in the northern Sinai Peninsula, and a video circulated showing what appeared to be Islamists pushing two youths from a concrete tower atop a building.

The violence was the most widespread since the revolution that toppled Mubarak, and many feared that it would make it harder for the country’s deeply divided populace to again accept the authority of a single leader.

“We have no idea what’s going on,” said Muhammad Ahmed, 27, standing near the bed of a friend, Muhammad Ali, in Qasr al-Aini Hospital in Cairo. Ali had been shot in the abdomen and sprayed with birdshot in his back during a clash near Cairo University with pro-Morsi marchers.

“It’s a nightmare,” Ahmed said. “I don’t understand anything.”

The director of the hospital’s emergency unit, Hisham Abu Aisha, said Saturday that the hospital had admitted 83 injured people from the previous night’s clashes in various Cairo neighborhoods. Most had been shot with birdshot, while others had been stabbed, beaten, or hit with rocks.

Four bodies had been taken to the hospital, and another person had died in the emergency room.

Most disconcerting, Abu Aisha said, were the 15 people who had arrived with gunshot wounds, indicating a presence of guns among protesters that many in Cairo would have once found unthinkable.

Abu Aisha said the hardest part was the continuation of street fights in the sprawling hospital’s wards.

“There were dead and wounded from both sides, and they wanted to finish each other off, so they beat each other inside the hospital,” he said. “There is no agreement and everyone is sticking to their views and we can’t come up with a plan to move the country forward.”

In the surgery ward, Muhammad Ibrahim, 20, recalled seeing someone shot to death next to him and then watching his twin brother, Ahmed, collapse after being shot twice in the abdomen in a clash with pro-Morsi marchers.

“We want there to be stability — not people getting shot every day,” Ibrahim said. “We’ll let anyone rule as long as there is stability.”

He said both he and his brother had voted for Morsi, hoping that he would use Islam to improve life for Egyptians, but they had given up on him when life got worse for the general population. He reserved judgment on General Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, leader of the armed forces, who described the military’s intervention into politics as a step toward healing the country.

“We’ll see if he does anything good or if he’ll say he’s with the people and do nothing, like the others who came before,” Ibrahim said.

Also Saturday, security officials said Khairat el-Shater, the powerful financier and strategist of Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood movement, had been arrested.

About 200 Brotherhood members were put on arrest lists after Morsi’s ouster. Some prominent members have been released, while others remain detained.

Mansour, the interim president appointed by the military, met with Sissi, who is also the defense minister, and with the interior minister, Mohamed Ibrahim, who is in charge of the police, at the presidential palace that had been occupied by Morsi just last week.

Mansour, a former chief justice of the Supreme Constitutional Court, has spoken publicly only once since his swearing-in, and it remains unclear when he will select a Cabinet and how much power it will have.

Islamist supporters who consider Morsi’s removal a military coup continued their sit-in in the Cairo suburb of Nasr City and in front of the officers’ club of the Republican Guard, where some believe Morsi is being held. The authorities have given no information on Morsi’s location since his ouster.

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