BERLIN - Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi, meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Wednesday, rejected calls for a unity government in response to the violent demonstrations rocking his country and defended his decision to impose a state of emergency and curfew in three cities.
"In Egypt there is a stable government working day and night in the interest of all Egyptians," Morsi said.
At a moment of acute crisis at home, Morsi found himself on a scheduled visit to Berlin, where he also met with the economy minister, Philipp Roesler, and representatives of German businesses. Germany is Egypt's third most important trading partner, and investment and development aid from Germany will be necessary if Egypt hopes to get back on its feet, analysts say.
Morsi's visit was controversial, with German newspapers and television commentators questioning whether Egypt was on the path to democracy. Morsi's past comments about Jews and Zionists also have raised concerns in a country conscious of its responsibility for the Holocaust.
After the two leaders met, Morsi and Merkel held a news conference. A German reporter asked Morsi about comments in which he described Zionists as "bloodsuckers" and "the descendants of apes and pigs."
Morsi said his statements had been taken out of context. "I am not against Judaism as a religion," he said. "I am not against Jews practicing their religion. I was talking about anybody practicing any religion who spills blood or attacks innocent people -- civilians. I criticize such behavior."
Merkel made it clear that Germany would continue its support of Egypt's transition to democracy only if Morsi's government upheld democratic ideals.
NEW YORK TIMES