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Egyptians prepare for clashes

CAIRO — Supporters of deposed Egyptian president Mohamed Mursi prepared for confrontation today, and the United States said Egypt’s military had been “restoring democracy” when it drove him from office.

Thousands were gathered in two Muslim Brotherhood camps in Cairo, defying warnings from the new army-backed government to abandon their protest or face action from security forces.

At the main Rabaa al-Adawiya camp this morning, young men wearing crash helmets and brandishing sticks mounted a first line of defence behind barricades of sandbags and bricks.

International diplomats, rights groups and Egyptian religious leaders appealed to authorities to avoid bloodshed.

Political sources said there had been intense debate within the cabinet on the wisdom of the security forces taking action.

Almost 300 people have died in political violence since Mursi was overthrown on July 3, including 80 of his supporters shot dead by security forces in a single incident last Saturday.

Mursi, an Islamist who became Egypt’s first freely-elected president in June 2011, had faced weeks of street demonstrations against his rule. Many Egyptians were frustrated by his failure to get to grips with social and economic problems and feared he was leading the country towards stricter Islamist control.

He is now being held by the military at a secret location.

The turmoil has left Egypt more polarised than at any time since US-backed autocrat Hosni Mubarak was toppled in 2011.

The new civilian government installed by the military received a boost yesterday from the United States, which had previously given mixed messages about events in a country that has long been a bulwark of Washington’s Middle East policy.

US Secretary of State John Kerry said in Pakistan Egypt’s army had been “restoring democracy” when it toppled Mursi. (Reuters)

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