Prominent Egyptian opposition leader Mohamed ElBaredei, of the National Salvation Front, met with the leader of the ruling Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party on Saturday in Cairo in a bid to ease political unrest that has seen dozens of Egyptians killed since the end of January.
ElBaredei, former head of the UN’s nuclear watchdog and a Nobel Prize winner, had previously said he would boycott talks with the Muslim Brotherhood. According to a Reuters report, Sayed el-Badawi, another leader of the NSF party, also took part in the talks with FJP head Saad el-Katatni.
The current cycle of unrest erupted three weeks ago around the second anniversary of the uprising that toppled Hosni Mubarak. The opposition accuses Islamist President Mohammed Morsi, who was elected in June, and his Muslim Brotherhood party of trying to monopolize power and of using violence against dissenters.
The president and his backers insist that the opposition’s relentless protests calling for reform have hurt the economy and have made implementing changes impossible.
In a show of support for the president on Friday, around 5,000 Islamist supporters gathered in front of Cairo University for a rally dubbed “No to violence.” Some of the demonstrators carried aloft banners that read: “People want an iron fist” and “Yes to Islamic law,” while others chanted, “People want the law of God to be implemented.”
Across town, a smaller crowd of around 1,000 liberal activists rallied outside the Qasr al-Kobba palace, one of the president’s secondary palaces. Police fired tear gas to disperse the crowd who tried to scale its walls. The scenes were similar to what has unfolded in past weeks at the main Cairo palace where police and protesters have fought.
In a separate march, several thousand people descended on the Defense Ministry calling for retribution for the deaths of protesters during military rule. Another march headed to the main courthouse to demand justice for a 12 year-old vendor killed by the military earlier this month. The armed forces issued a rare apology for the death, and a military prosecutor detained a soldier for 15 days pending investigation.