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Egypt

Merkel urges Morsi to foster political dialogue in Egypt

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has given a press conference alongside visiting Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi in Berlin. Merkel encouraged political dialogue in the restive Middle East country.

Merkel also called for the promotion of human rights and religious freedoms in Egypt, a country rocked by internal violence that has claimed more than 50 lives in the past week.

"One thing that is important for us is that the line for dialogue is always open to all political forces in Egypt; that the different political forces can make their contribution; that human rights are adhered to in Egypt and that of course religious freedom can be experienced," the German chancellor said at the joint press conference on Wednesday.

Morsi had flown to Germany to demonstrate to Europe his democratic credentials, but amid political tension back home, he limited his visit to a few hours and canceled a planned leg to Paris.

The Egyptian president responded to Merkel by saying dialogue was possible and that Egypt would be a state based on the rule of law, not run by the military. But he refused to give a commitment sought by the Egyption opposition for a national unity government, saying Egypt's new parliament would decide after elections expected in April.

Morsi also called for an expansion of German-Egyptian relations, but protested against "interference in internal affairs."

Unrest in Egypt

The Egyptian president has faced months of protest in his own country, including disapproval from liberal and youth groups opposed to a new Islamist-backed constitution he helped to usher in late last year.

Finding a solution for Egypt from Germany

Two more protesters were shot dead before dawn Wednesday near Cairo's Tahrir Square, the epicenter of the revolution that ousted longtime dictator Hosni Mubarak two years ago. Wednesday's violence marked the seventh day of what has become the deadliest wave of unrest since Morsi took office in June.

On Tuesday, Egypt's army chief warned that the country was on the brink of collapse if Morsi's opponents and supporters did not end street battles.

In response to particularly bloody violence over the past week in the canal cities of Port Said, Suez and Ismailiya, Morsi declared a 30-day state of emergency and night curfew that extended to their surrounding provinces.

He said Wednesday the measures "serve the safety of the residents in order to put an end to criminal attacks."

Morsi added that "as soon as the situation stabilizes the measures will be revoked."

'Taken out of context'

When asked in Berlin about controversial, vitriolic remarks Morsi made against Jews and Zionists in 2010 that surfaced this month, the president replied by saying they had been taken out of context and that he respected all religions.

"I am not against the Jewish faith, I am not against Jews who practice their religion," Morsi said. "I was talking about the practices and behavior of believers of any religion who shed blood or attack innocent people or civilians. That's the behavior I condemn."

"I am a Muslim," he added. "I'm a believer and my religion obliges me to believe in all prophets, to respect all religions and to respect the right of people to their own faith."

dr/ipj (Reuters, dpa, AP)

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