Saudi Arabia warns against pressing Egypt on crackdown

PARIS Sun Aug 18, 2013 9:14pm BST

Saudi Arabia's Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal attends the opening of an Arab League meeting in Cairo March 6, 2013. REUTERS/Mohamed Abd El Ghany

Saudi Arabia's Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal attends the opening of an Arab League meeting in Cairo March 6, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Mohamed Abd El Ghany

PARIS (Reuters) - Saudi Arabia on Sunday warned the West against putting pressure on Egypt's military-backed government to halt a crackdown on supporters of ousted Islamist President Mohamed Mursi.

"We will not achieve anything through threats," Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal, told reporters through an interpreter during a visit to Paris.

The prince spoke after meeting French President Francois Hollande, who on Thursday called for a swift end to a state of emergency imposed by Egypt's military authorities.

EU foreign ministers meet in Brussels this week to review what steps to take following a bloody crackdown since Wednesday on supporters of Mursi, deposed by the military on July 3. More than 800 people have died in the violence.

"If the situation calms down, very good. If on the contrary violence continues, then we can and we probably must take decisions," France's Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius told France 2 television on Sunday.

He said cutting aid would be difficult, as EU money allowed "Egyptians to eat and receive medical treatment". However, "loans are easier to cut," he added.

Both Hollande and the Saudi minister called for fresh elections in Egypt. Egypt's army has already promised an early presidential vote in a transition plan it set out after Mursi's overthrow.

The United States sharply criticised the violence and cancelled jointed military exercises with is ally that had been due next month. But Washington has not cut its $1.3 billion in military aid and about $250 million in economic aid to Egypt.

Riyadh was a close ally of Egypt's former leader Hosni Mubarak, toppled by a popular uprising in 2011 that brought Mursi's Muslim Brotherhood to power, and has long feared the spread of the Islamist group's ideology to the Gulf monarchies.

On Friday, Saudi King Abdullah called on Arabs to stand together against "attempts to destabilise" Egypt, in a message of support for Egypt's military and clear attack on the Brotherhood.

(Reporting by Julien Ponthus; Writing by Jon Boyle; Editing by Andrew Heavens)

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