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New elections in six months

Egypt’s interim President Adli Mansour (right) meeting with UAE’s National Security Adviser Sheikh Hazza bin Zayed Al Nahyan at El-Thadiya presidential palace in Cairo yesterday. Photo: Reuters

Egypt’s interim President Adli Mansour (right) meeting with UAE’s National Security Adviser Sheikh Hazza bin Zayed Al Nahyan at El-Thadiya presidential palace in Cairo yesterday. Photo: Reuters

Egypt named an interim prime minister yesterday and rich Gulf states poured in $8 billion in aid, as the biggest Arab nation sought ways out of a crisis a day after troops killed dozens of Islamists.

Interim head of state Adli Mansour announced a faster-than-expected timetable to hold elections in about six months. Scorned by the ousted Muslim Brotherhood, he is under mounting pressure to plot a path back to democracy less than a week after the army overthrew the first freely elected president.

A day after 55 people were killed when troops opened fire on Brotherhood supporters, Hazem el-Beblawi, a liberal economist and former finance minister, was named interim prime minister. Former UN diplomat Mohamed ElBaradei, now a liberal party leader, was named deputy president for foreign affairs.

News quickly followed of $8 billion in grants, loans and fuel from Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

Crucially, the choice of Beblawi won the acceptance of the ultra-orthodox Islamist Nour Party – sometime ally of toppled President Mohamed Morsi and his Brotherhood. Nour leaders have been courted by the military-backed interim authorities to prove that Islamists will not be marginalised by the new Government.

Yet the worst day of violence in more than a year has left Egypt more divided than ever in its modern history. The Brotherhood is isolated and furious at Egyptians who passionately reject it.

The bloodshed has raised alarm among key donors such as the United States and the European Union, as well as in Israel, with which Egypt has had a US-backed peace treaty since 1979.

Rich Gulf Arab states, long suspicious of the Muslim Brotherhood, have shown fewer reservations. The United Arab Emirates offered a grant of $1 billion and a loan of $2 billion. Saudi Arabia offered $3 billion in cash and loans, and an additional $2 billion worth of much-needed fuel. In a further demonstration of its support, UAE Foreign Minister Abdullah bin Zayed visited Egypt yesterday, the most senior foreign official to arrive since Morsi’s removal.

The Brotherhood says Monday’s violence was an unprovoked attack on worshippers holding peaceful dawn prayers outside a barracks where they believed Morsi was being held.

But in a sign of the country’s deep divisions, many Cairo residents seemed to accept the official account and blamed the Brotherhood for its members’ deaths. That has left the deposed president’s followers isolated and angrier than ever.

Thousands of Morsi followers gathered at the site of a vigil near a mosque in north east Cairo, where they have vowed to remain camping out in the fierce heat until he is restored to power – an aim that now seems vain.

Medical sources confirmed at least 55 people had been killed, raising the death toll in the incident, the deadliest in the two and a half years of Egypt’s political turmoil apart from a riot at a soccer stadium in 2012.

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