Senior U.S. official visits Egypt as Islamists plan more protests
* Senior U.S. official to visit Egypt, first since overthrow
* Unclear if Burns will meet Mursi's Brotherhood supporters
* New cabinet to be formed, more protests called
By Shadia Nasralla and Ulf Laessing
CAIRO, July 15 (Reuters) - The first senior U.S. official to visit Egypt since the army toppled the country's elected president will hold high-level talks on Monday in Cairo, where thousands of supporters of the ousted Islamist leader are expected to take to the streets.
Egyptians have been shocked by violent protests that have killed 92 people. However, despite deep divisions between those who supported and those who opposed overthrown President Mohamed Mursi, they are united by their suspicion of Washington's motives.
U.S. Deputy Secretary of State William Burns may face awkward questions when he visits Cairo, where portraits of the American ambassador, Anne Patterson, have been overwritten with the words "Go home, witch." Burns, an Arabic speaker, would not miss the point.
Burns' visit, which will include talks with the military, comes as Egypt's interim prime minister finalises his cabinet.
It has been given the task of implementing a military-backed plan to hold parliamentary elections in about six months' time and to return Egypt to civilian rule. The army toppled Mursi on July 3 when millions took to the streets to demand he resign.
The move sparked outrage among followers of Mursi, Egypt's first freely elected president, and street battles between them and his opponents swept the country on July 5 leaving 35 dead.
A week ago, 53 Mursi supporters were killed by soldiers at the Republican Guard compound in Cairo in a clash the army blamed on an attack on its troops by demonstrators, but which Mursi's Muslim Brotherhood movement called a "massacre".
Four soldier also died in the clash. Subsequent protests by the Brotherhood have mobilised tens of thousands to take to the streets, but they have passed off peacefully.
The crisis in the Arab world's most populous state, which signed a peace treaty with Israel in 1979 and which straddles the strategic Suez Canal waterway, has alarmed allies in the region and the West.
In a statement, the U.S. State Department said Burns would "underscore U.S. support for the Egyptian people, an end to all violence, and a transition leading to an inclusive, democratically elected civilian government."
The United States has studiously avoided calling Mursi's overthrow a coup, because, under U.S. laws dating back to the 1980s, to do so would mean stopping the $1.3 billion in military aid it gives Egypt each year.
The Brotherhood said it was a coup, but the head of Egypt's armed forces, Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, said the military was enforcing the will of the people after huge crowds took to the streets on June 30 to pressure Mursi into stepping down.
What pro- and anti-Mursi camps do agree on is a belief that the United States conspired to help the other side.
It was not clear whether Burns would meet members of the Brotherhood during his visit, which is scheduled to end on Tuesday.
GENERAL DEFENDS INTERVENTION
In a speech to a hall full of military officers on Sunday, Sisi justified the takeover. He said the president had lost legitimacy because of the mass demonstrations against him.
The general, whose intervention is popular with many Egyptians, said he tried to avert the need for unilateral action by offering Mursi the option of holding a referendum on his rule, but "the response was total rejection".
Sisi also insisted the political process remained open to all groups - though Mursi's Muslim Brotherhood has shunned dealings with "usurpers".
Brotherhood spokesman Gehad El-Haddad dismissed the speech.
"The guy is either lying or his troops are operating without his knowledge, because the only thing we are seeing from him are arbitrary arrests, confiscation of assets and killing of our protesters," he said.
Mursi has been held incommunicado at an undisclosed location since he was removed from power. The authorities have not charged him with a crime, but said on Saturday that they were investigating complaints against him over spying, inciting violence and wrecking the economy.
The public prosecutor said it had ordered the freezing of the assets of 14 Brotherhood and other Islamist leaders.
Thousands of Mursi's followers have maintained a vigil at a crossroads near a mosque in northeast Cairo, where they have braved brutal summer heat and daytime fasting during Ramadan to push their demand for the leader to be reinstated.
"Is it allowed anywhere else in the world for an elected president with 51 percent of the vote to just disappear, and the voters don't know where he is?" asked Hani Abdel Ghani, an engineer, standing amid rows of tents erected to shelter the protesters from the sun and give them somewhere to sleep.
According to the state MENA news agency, army helicopters flew over the crowd late on Sunday and dropped fliers exhorting them to renounce violence and end their sit-in.
Mursi's opponents have also called for demonstrations on Monday, though their protests are attracting far fewer people now that they have achieved their aim of bringing him down.
MINISTERS LINED UP
Hazem el-Beblawi has appointed most key ministers, including U.S.-educated economist Ahmed Galal as finance minister.
His job will be to rescue an economy wrecked by two and a half years of political turmoil since autocrat Hosni Mubarak was toppled in a popular uprising in 2011.
The task became easier, at least in the short term, after Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Kuwait promised a total of $12 billion in cash, loans and fuel.
Beblawi's challenge is setting up a government that will appear inclusive without the biggest Islamist party.
After the Brotherhood rejected the process altogether, authorities have instead been courting the second biggest Islamist group, the ultra-orthodox Nour Party, sometime Mursi allies who broke with him and accepted the army takeover.
Nour says it has withdrawn from the transition plan because of state violence and is not seeking ministerial posts of its own, but will back technocrats and offer "advice" to Beblawi.
- Malaysian PM says lost airliner was diverted deliberately |
- Malaysia PM says lost plane's movements indicate a deliberate act
- Exclusive: Radar data suggests missing Malaysia plane deliberately flown way off course - sources
- UPDATE 2-Satellite data shows missing Malaysia plane may have flown thousands of miles-source
- UPDATE 1-Rolls-Royce concurs with Malaysia on missing jet's engine data