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U.S. diplomat meets Egyptian officials amid political crisis

By CNN Staff
July 16, 2013 -- Updated 0029 GMT (0829 HKT)
  • NEW: Security forces fire tear gas at supporters of ousted President Mohamed Morsy
  • Deputy Secretary of State William Burns is first U.S. official to meet with interim leaders
  • Morsy was overthrown by the country's military this month
  • Burns calls for an end to "politically motivated arrests" and a start to "serious dialogue"

Cairo (CNN) -- A high-ranking U.S. diplomat visited with interim government leaders in Cairo on Monday in a show of support to Egyptians amid the country's second political crisis in two years.

Deputy Secretary of State William J. Burns is the first U.S. official to meet with interim leaders since Egypt's military overthrew President Mohamed Morsy earlier this month.

Burns emphasized the need for stability and tolerance, and he urged leaders to end the violence, according to senior State Department officials. More than 50 people were killed last week after Morsy supporters clashed with security forces, who opened fire.

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More clashes broke out during Burns' visit. Security forces fired tear gas at pro-Morsy protesters, who blocked a bridge and threw Molotov cocktails and stones, state-run EGYNews reported.

Deputy Secretary of State William J. Burns visits the Egyptian presidential palace in Cairo on Monday.
Deputy Secretary of State William J. Burns visits the Egyptian presidential palace in Cairo on Monday.
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"We have called on the military to avoid any politically motivated arrests, and we have also called on those who differ with the government to adhere to their absolute obligation to participate peacefully," Burns said after his meetings.

Morsy, who was sworn in as the country's first democratically elected president in June 2012, has been detained since his ouster July 3. Egyptian authorities are investigating him and several leaders and supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood over accusations of spying and killing protesters. They have have frozen the assets of more than a dozen people in an investigation of violence in Cairo.

On Monday, Burns emphasized the need for dialogue as the country moves forward.

"I believe from my discussions here that Egyptians understand that the first priority must be to end violence, prevent retribution and begin a serious dialogue among all sides and all political parties," he said. "A dialogue could help return calm so that people can go about their normal activities without fear."

Burns added that "only Egyptians can determine their future."

"I did not come with American solutions nor did I come to lecture anyone," he said. "We know that Egyptians must forge their own path to democracy. We know that this will not mirror our own, and we will not try to impose our model on Egypt."

Egypt has long been a close ally of the United States. The country gets $1.3 billion in annual U.S. military aid. The Obama administration has called for Morsy's release and has not referred to his ouster through military might as a "coup." The use of the term could force the United States to terminate the military aid.

CNN's Elise Labott and Hamdi Alkhshali contributed to this report.

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