Egypt crackdown sparks global outrage

PARIS, France (UPDATED) - Egypt's bloody crackdown on supporters of ousted president Mohamed Morsi triggered widespread condemnation on Wednesday as the international community reacted with alarm to what some termed a "massacre".

The United Nations, the United States, Britain, Iran, Qatar and Turkey strongly denounced the use of force by the military-backed interim government to clear two protest camps in Cairo.

The action, which was followed by the declaration of a month-long state of emergency, has resulted in at least 124 deaths, according to AFP reporters at the scene, while the UN said the death toll could run into the hundreds.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, who had urged both sides to exercise restraint, expressed regret that "Egyptian authorities chose instead to use force to respond to the ongoing demonstrations," according to a statement issued by his spokesman.

The United States, which had offered qualified backing to the interim government, "strongly condemns" the violence against protesters and urges the military to show restraint, White House spokesman Josh Earnest said.

British Foreign Secretary William Hague said he was deeply concerned at the escalating violence and unrest.

"I condemn the use of force in clearing protests and call on the security forces to act with restraint," Hague said.

Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt tweeted: "Main responsibility with regime forces. Extremely hard to restore political process."

'Massacre'

Qatar, a main backer of the pro-Morsi Muslim Brotherhood, issued a similar message.

"Qatar strongly denounces the means by which peaceful protesters in Rabaa al-Adawiya camp and Al-Nahda square have been dealt with and which led to the killing of several unarmed innocent people among them," a foreign ministry spokesman said in a statement published on the official QNA agency.

Turkey -- which had developed strong ties with Morsi's government -- urged the international community to act immediately over what it said was an "unacceptable" response to the protests.

"The international community, particularly the UN Security Council and Arab League, must act immediately to stop this massacre," the prime minister's office said in a statement.

Iran also termed the crackdown a "massacre".

"Iran is following the bitter events in Egypt closely, disapproves of the violent actions, condemns the massacre of the population and warns of the serious consequences," the foreign ministry said in a statement.

France, Germany and Italy refrained from apportioning blame for the crisis, calling for calm from both sides.

"It is essential that this violence cease and that a sense of calm prevails," a French foreign ministry statement said.

Italian foreign minister Emma Bonino said she was profoundly saddened by events in Egypt.

"I ask all those involved in Egypt to do everything in their power to put an immediate stop to the violence and avoid a bloodbath. The armed forces must exercise the utmost self-control and everyone must avoid any incitement to violence."

German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle said: "We call on all political forces to return immediately to negotiations and avert an escalation of violence.

"All further bloodshed must be prevented."

The European Union also appealed for restraint, with EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton's spokesman saying: "Confrontation and violence are not the way forward." - Rappler.com