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"As time passes, more people will jump off this coup ship," he said defiantly.
Seif Abdel-Fattah, a former adviser to Morsi , said Ashton's visit and ElBaradei's comments were part of a "public relations campaign to beautify the coup." He said it is the military that calls the shots on how to deal with the crisis.
Abdel-Fattah and other Morsi allies have offered political initiatives to resolve the crisis — but all involve returning Morsi to office at least briefly, which for the rival camp is out of the question. Abdel-Fattah's proposal would have Morsi resume the presidency to appoint a prime minister agreed on by all sides to lead a transition to new elections.
Reflecting the continued tension, el-Erian said Monday that by getting involved in politics, the armed forces has lost "its legal immunity," suggesting protests will continue outside military installations. On his Facebook page, the military spokesman Col. Ahmed Mohammed Ali quickly warned against such protests, accusing el-Erian of "incitement."
Abdullah el-Sinawi, a commentator familiar with the military thinking, said the interim leadership was clearly seeking Ashton's help to convince the Brotherhood to disband the protests, and minimize their losses.
"The authorities are in a big dilemma. They ... are under a lot of pressure from inside to rein in the use of violence, and international pressure to show self-restraint," he said. "But the Brotherhood in the streets is a challenge, threatening the authority itself if it doesn't move."
What is the nature of the next steps remains unclear. Security officials said they will pursue legal means to disband the sit-ins, while others are calling for trying those inciting violence and targeting the group's finances.
Ziad Bahaa-Eldin, the interim deputy prime minister, posted on his Facebook that those like him who criticized the Brotherhood for exclusionist, repressive politics and ignoring of the law must also speak against such practices now.
"That is why we should avoid falling in the trap of repeating those actions and behaviors regardless of the extent of provocation and escalation that the protesters are practicing in" the sit-ins. Those who support the new road map should put "this energy toward positive goals that seek democracy, reconciliation and justice."
Bahy Eddin Hassan, a leading human rights activist, said statements from within the administration indicate differing positions on how to deal with the crisis, and said the ball is now in the moderates within the pro-Morsi camp.
"Otherwise extremism will win on both sides," Hassan, whose group had called for the dismissal of the interior minister in the wake of the weekend violence.