Fears of a new round of violent confrontations in Egypt loomed on Monday as the Muslim Brotherhood and its allies organized protest marches on Interior Ministry buildings nationwide in defiance of warnings by the military-led government, even as the European Union's top foreign policy official was visiting Cairo and talking to both sides in an attempt to mediate an easing of the crisis.
The European official, Catherine Ashton, who arrived in Egypt late Sunday, was meeting with the interim president, Adli Mansour; his vice president, Mohamed ElBaradei; and the chief of the armed forces, Gen. Abdul-Fattah el-Sisi. She also was scheduled to meet with some of the remaining Muslim Brotherhood leaders who have not yet been arrested.
Ms. Ashton was the first Western emissary to visit the country after a bloody crackdown in Cairo and elsewhere over the weekend left more than 80 Muslim Brotherhood members and sympathizers dead and hundreds wounded, the second mass killing of Islamists since the military deposed and arrested Mohamed Morsi, an Islamist and Egypt's first freely elected president, on July 3.
Mr. Morsi's ouster has plunged Egypt into its worst political crisis since the revolution that felled his autocratic predecessor, Hosni Mubarak, in February 2011. The Muslim Brotherhood has characterized the military's action as a coup and has demanded the reinstatement of Mr. Morsi, whose whereabouts have not been disclosed since he was removed from office.
In a statement, Ms. Ashton said she was exhorting Egypt's interim leaders to make good on their pledge for a cohesive, civilian-led government that included all political factions, including the Muslim Brotherhood and its Islamist allies. "This transitional process must lead -- as soon as possible -- to a constitutional regime, the holding of free transparent elections and the forming of a cabinet with a civilian leadership," Ms. Ashto's statement said, according to Ahram Online, the Web site of Egypt's leading newspaper.
There were no immediate details on the outcome of her meetings. But Mr. ElBaradei, a Nobel laureate and diplomat whose appointment has been widely seen as an attempt by the interim government to present a friendly liaison to the West, told Ms. Ashton that Egypt's post-Morsi leadership was doing "all what it could in order to reach a peaceful exit to the current crisis," Ahram Online reported.
The Muslim Brotherhood said on its Web site that Ms. Ashton was meeting later with at least four members of the Anti-Coup National Alliance, a protest coordination group formed by the Muslim Brotherhood and its supporters, at a hotel in Egypt's Giza district, where the Islamists have been staging a mass sit-in since Mr. Morsi's ouster. The Brotherhood said the delegation would be "embarking from the platform of constitutional legitimacy, aiming to end the military coup."
The Brotherhood also said it had organized marches of protesters carrying coffins to administration buildings in all Egyptian provinces after evening prayers "to condemn the criminal acts and the firing of live ammunition by Interior Ministry henchmen at peaceful demonstrators."
The interim government has expressed growing impatience with the Islamist demonstrations, and military officials have suggested that they would soon attempt to forcibly remove Islamist protesters from sit-in sites in Cairo and elsewhere. They have given every indication that they are ready to confront the Muslim Brotherhood and drive it underground, resurrecting the era when it operated as a banned group under Mr. Mubarak and his predecessors.
Besides Mr. Morsi, many of the brotherhood's senior leaders have been placed under arrest. Egyptian news services reported that two other allies of Mr. Morsi, senior members of the Islamist Wasat Party, were arrested early Monday.world
This article originally appeared in The New York Times.