The United States warned Tuesday there must be no return to the “bad old days” of the Mubarak era in Egypt, as the army there called for talks to resolve a crisis over a constitutional referendum.
“We continue to have deep concerns about the situation in Egypt,” State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said.
“Key stakeholders in Egypt are raising real and legitimate questions, both about the substance and about the process for moving to a constitutional referendum this weekend.”
Tens of thousands of protesters filled Cairo streets to demonstrate for and against the referendum called for Saturday on a draft constitution backed by President Mohamed Morsi and his Islamist allies.
General Abdel Fattah al-Sissi, Egypt’s armed forces chief and defense minister, urged all political groups to meet on Wednesday at a Cairo military sports complex, in a statement posted on the military’s Facebook page.
Nuland said there were fears for “public order surrounding the polling,” but she also warned the powerful military to tread carefully.
She urged the security forces “in implementing and supporting public order, to exercise restraint, to respect the right of peaceful protest.”
“We don’t want to see any return to the bad old days of the Mubarak era in terms of security practices,” she stressed.
But she again refused to step into the debate on whether Saturday’s referendum on the new draft constitution, designed replace the constitution in place under Morsi’s predecessor Hosni Mubarak, should be postponed.
“There are plenty of people on one side or the other that want the US to declare itself. These are decisions that Egyptians have to make. We’re setting forward the principles that are guiding our approach to this,” she insisted.