CAIRO – Amid a flurry of visits by American and other foreign dignitaries, Egypt's interim presidency denounced "foreign pressure" on Tuesday in a sign of its growing impatience with international efforts to resolve a standoff with supporters of the ousted president that has left the country on the brink of another bout of violence and deadly street confrontations.
The military-backed administration has held firm to a political road map announced the day Islamist President Mohammed Morsi was ousted by the military following mass protests calling on him to step down. But U.S. and other international officials have urged the inclusion of Morsi's Muslim Brotherhood in the political process going forward. Top Egyptian officials said reconciliation is a priority but only after the Brotherhood renounces violence, citing sectarian violence in southern Egypt, cases of torture against anti-Morsi protesters and blocking main roads.
Ahmed el-Musalamani, a spokesman for interim president Adly Mansour, told reporters that "foreign pressure has exceeded international standards," adding that Egypt will protect "the revolution" in reference to June 30, the day hundreds of thousands of Egyptians revolted against Morsi's rule.
El-Musalamani didn't elaborate. However, his comments came as the country's powerful military chief Gen. Abdel-Fatah el-Sissi, who also is defense minister, and Vice President Mohamed ElBaradei held separate meetings with Republican Sens. Lindsey Graham and John McCain, who arrived in Cairo on Monday at President Barack Obama's request to press senior Egyptians for a quick return to civilian rule.
Egypt's official news agency MENA reported that the two senators and el-Sissi discussed efforts to end "the state of political polarization and stop the violence" while moving forward with Egypt's fast-track road map, according to which the constitution would be amended and new parliamentary and presidential elections held by early next year "without discrimination or isolation."
U.S. Deputy Secretary of State William Burns, who arrived Friday, also was meeting with Mansour and ElBaradei, a day after he held talks with detained Muslim Brotherhood leaders.
Burns visited Khairat el-Shater, a top Brotherhood leader who is held in Torah prison, in Cairo after midnight on Sunday. He was accompanied by European Union envoy and Gulf foreign ministers.
Morsi, Egypt's first freely elected president who came to power nearly a year and a half after the ouster of his predecessor Hosni Mubarak in a 2011 uprising, has been held at a secret location since his ouster. Last week, he was visited by the EU's foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton and a group of African statesmen, but the administration has said it will not allow any more envoys to visit him.
All talks are centered around averting collision between the military-backed government and Muslim Brotherhood supporters who have been camping out in two main sit-ins in Cairo and its sister city of Giza for more than a month demanding Morsi's reinstatement as well as the return of the constitution and the parliament.
The protest camps have been used as a hotbed for street marches that blocked traffic and sometimes sparked street violence either with security forces, or Morsi's opponents.
In two incidents this month, more than 130 mostly Morsi supporters were killed in clashes near their main sit-in in eastern Cairo.
The government said that it has ordered the security forces to clear out the two protest camps because they pose "national security threat."
The Muslim Brotherhood publically says it rejects any concessions and its starting point will be with Morsi's return to power. However, privately, protesters at sit-in say that the camp is their last bargaining chip, to press for release of detained leaders and more importantly to get guarantees that they will be included in political life going forward.
A European Union official in Brussels has said diplomats were working on confidence-building measures such as releasing detained Brotherhood officials, dropping charges against other group members and dispersing the pro-Morsi sit-ins held at two squares on opposite ends of the Egyptian capital. The official spoke on condition of anonymity to brief reporters on the confidential discussions.
In an official statement, ElBaradei after meeting with Burns on Tuesday stressed that Egypt's "priorities are to secure citizens and protect their lives, their possessions and to preserve security and law ... while moving forward to achieve comprehensive political reconciliation."