Egypt defiant on aid after arrest of Islamist chief

Egypt defiant on aid after arrest of Islamist chief
An image grab taken from Egyptian state television shows Egypt's interim prime minister Hazem al-Beblawi addressing the nation in Cairo on August 14, 2013.

CAIRO - Egypt's interim prime minister said Tuesday his country could live without aid from the United States as Washington and the EU review ties with Cairo amid a bloody crackdown on supporters of deposed president Mohamed Morsi.

A defiant Hazem al-Beblawi told ABC news his country was heading in the "right direction" and he did "not fear civil war" despite the death of more than 900 people in a military-led campaign against Morsi backers.

Earlier Tuesday, authorities detained the head of Morsi's Muslim Brotherhood, stoking fears of fresh violence between security forces and Islamists protesting at the former president's July 3 ouster by the army.

An Egyptian court remanded Mohamed Badie in custody for 15 days on suspicion of inciting the murder of protesters, the first time since 1981 that a Brotherhood supreme guide has been arrested.

The political party of the Brotherhood, reeling from the imprisonment and death of hundreds of its members, moved swiftly to replace Badie with Mahmoud Ezzat, a hawkish deputy in the organisation.

Ezzat has been jailed repeatedly, and is often referred to as the organisation's "iron man".

Meanwhile, in Washington, President Barack Obama huddled with top aides to review policy towards Egypt, traditionally a strong US ally in the Middle East.

The White House criticised Badie's arrest, saying it was incompatible with the military's pledge for an "inclusive political process" but denied reports it was halting its US$1.3 billion (S$1.7 billion) annual aid package.

Spokesman Josh Earnest said a review of US aid ordered in early July had not yet been completed and that "reports ... that suggest that assistance to Egypt has been cut off are not accurate."

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