BRUSSELS (Reuters) - The European Union called on Monday for the release of ousted Egyptian president Mohamed Mursi and demanded democratic elections as soon as possible.
Mursi has been held at an undisclosed military facility since the Egyptian army removed him from office on July 3 and suspended the constitution in the wake of street protests against his one-year rule.
The army says Islamist Mursi is being held for his own safety.
EU foreign ministers meeting in Brussels issued a statement with a list of priorities for Egypt, including an end to politically motivated arrests and the release of all political detainees, including Mursi.
Mursi’s family said on Monday it would take legal action against the army, accusing it of abducting Egypt’s first democratically-elected president.
Supporters and opponents of Mursi clashed in central Cairo on Monday and state television said one person was killed.
“Egypt has to move rapidly to an inclusive, democratic transformation process, including by the holding of democratic elections in the shortest possible time,” the EU ministers said.
The EU also urged Egypt’s interim authorities to take urgent measures to tackle serious social and economic challenges facing Egypt and to re-engage with the International Monetary Fund. The EU would continue to provide support to Egypt to face these challenges, the ministers said.
Egypt’s previous government had been negotiating a $4.8 billion loan from the International Monetary Fund to help it get its deteriorating finances under control. But it had baulked at taking unpopular austerity measures.
Mursi’s Muslim Brotherhood accuses the army of orchestrating a military coup.
The European Union has avoided the term “coup” to describe what happened but the ministers said on Monday that the armed forces should not play a political role in a democracy and they called for a transition that would allow a transfer of power to a civilian-led and democratically elected government.
EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton visited Egypt’s interim rulers last week and also met senior figures from the Muslim Brotherhood.
The Muslim Brotherhood said last Thursday it had proposed through an EU envoy a framework for talks to resolve Egypt’s political crisis. The envoy, Bernardino Leon, said he had offered the EU’s good offices to help resolve the crisis, but said the term “mediator” exaggerated the role.
Reporting by Adrian Croft