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Islamist groups offer to end protests in Egypt

Truce linked to military easing its crackdown

Muslim Brotherhood official Amr Darrag said it needs “confidence-building measures.”

Reuters/File

Muslim Brotherhood official Amr Darrag said it needs “confidence-building measures.”

CAIRO — Two former militant groups offered to call off street protests if the government agrees to ease its pressure on Islamists, a move that underscores how a onetime-strong movement is now bowing to an unprecedented crackdown by security authorities.

The proposed truce on demonstrations is being viewed as a sign of cracks within the Islamist alliance led by the Muslim Brotherhood, with much of its leadership either imprisoned or on the run.

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‘‘They want to lift pressure on their groups and jump off the Muslim Brotherhood boat that is sinking right now,’’ said veteran journalist Makram Mohammed Ahmed. ‘‘Everyone is searching for a way out.’’

The truce proposal comes after the military rounded up hundreds of Muslim Brotherhood leaders and other Islamists after the country’s worst bout of violence, which followed the Aug. 14 clearing of two sprawling camps of protesters seeking the reinstatement of ousted President Mohammed Morsi, Egypt’s first freely elected leader.

Trial opened Sunday for the Brotherhood’s supreme leader, Mohammed Badie, and two other senior officials facing charges of inciting the murder of anti-Morsi protesters on June 30, the anniversary of his inauguration, when millions took to the street to call on him to step down.

The first day of their trial coincided with the retrial of former president Hosni Mubarak, who was ousted in a popular uprising in 2011, over similar charges.

Morsi supporters previously have insisted on Morsi’s return to power, the lifting of the suspension of Islamist-drafted constitution, and the restoration of the only legislative council under Morsi as three preconditions to talks.

OPEN TO NEGOTIATIONS

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However, Islamic Jihad leader Mohammed Abu Samra said the proposed truce offered Monday has no ‘‘red lines.’’

‘‘We are paving the way for talks,’’ Abu Samra said by telephone. ‘‘We can’t hold talks while we are at the points of swords in the midst of killings and crackdowns.’’ He said the groups were ‘‘extending their hands’’ to avoid a bloodier confrontation with the military, which he accuses of ‘‘defaming’’ the Brotherhood in the media and mosques.

Asked about Morsi’s return to power, he said, ‘‘blood is more treasured than seats of power . . . we are no longer upholding return of the constitutional legitimacy.’’

Brotherhood negotiator Amr Darrag also said his group is open to talks but needs ‘‘confidence-building measures,’’ such as an investigation into the killings of hundreds of Morsi supporters over the past month. However, he added, ‘‘the other side didn’t show a single gesture or any sign that it is ready for dialogue. It only talks about it.’’

The interim president’s office could not immediately be reached for comment. But on Saturday, Egypt’s interim prime minister, Hazem el-Beblawi, told reporters that security measures will not be enough on their own and that Egypt ‘‘must go down the political path’’ to work out a democratic transition through reconciliation.

He ruled out talks with anyone who had committed acts of violence, however.

Members of the Brotherhood lashed out after Morsi’s July 3 ouster in a military coup, which came as millions of Egyptians called on him to step down because of his alleged abuse of power.

In the largely lawless northern part of the Sinai Peninsula, security forces have been attacked almost daily as towns near the border with Israel and the Gaza Strip have become hideouts and strongholds of Islamic extremists.

The current bout of violence was set off when security forces backed by snipers and armored vehicles broke up two sprawling pro-Morsi protest camps on Aug. 14. More than 1,000 people, most Morsi supporters, were killed in the raids and other violence over the next several days. Morsi’s supporters retaliated by attacking dozens of police stations, churches, and government buildings.

Authorities declared a state of emergency and imposed a curfew in Cairo and other areas to try to quell the violence.

The crackdown continued Monday, as the state news agency announced the arrest of former youth minister and senior Brotherhood member Osama Yassin. Several of the group’s leaders are still on the run, including Mohammed el-Beltagy, and one of Gamaa Islamiyah’s leaders, Assem Abdel-Maged.

Meanwhile, scattered antigovernment protests took place across the country .

The Brotherhood has lost much public support and is now largely resented by the general population. Its offices and Brotherhood-owned businesses have been attacked, while Egypt’s media — almost uniformly against it since the closure of Islamist TV stations — describes it as ‘‘terrorist.’’

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