Crackdown in Cairo

A supporter of deposed Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi walks through the debris left after a violent crackdown by Egyptian security forces on a pro-Morsi sit-in at the Rabaa al Adawiya mosque in Cairo. A state of emergency has been declared for the next month by the military-led interim government to restore law and order after months of political turmoil. (Ed Giles / Getty Images / August 14, 2013)

World leaders Wednesday denounced the violence unleashed by Egyptian security forces to disperse Islamist protesters in Cairo. But Muslim Brotherhood allies of the demonstrators applauded their defiance as important in the quest for Muslim power throughout the region.

The bloody predawn sweep of two sit-in demonstrations in the Egyptian capital sparked angry reactions throughout the country, which is deeply divided over the role of Islam in government after the July 3 ouster of elected Islamist President Mohamed Morsi.

Most Western countries reacted to the operation against Morsi backers, who were cleared from the sites by police in armored vehicles and bulldozers, by condemning the violence and urging dialogue to resolve the political crisis.

"The United States strongly condemns the use of violence against protesters in Egypt," White House spokesman Josh Earnest said in a statement. "We have repeatedly called on the Egyptian military and security forces to show restraint and for the government to respect the universal rights of its citizens, just as we have urged protesters to demonstrate peacefully."

The U.S. opposed the one-month state of emergency imposed by the Egyptian government, he added.

Britain, Germany, France and Italy also criticized the use of force and called on both sides to stand down from their dangerous face-off.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon condemned the violence and urged calm and restraint on both sides. He made no direct criticism of the military leadership or the protesters who had refused to disperse on their own but said he was "well aware that the vast majority of the Egyptian people, weary of disruptions to normal life caused by demonstrations and counter-demonstrations, want their country to go forward peacefully in an Egyptian-led process towards prosperity and democracy."

British Foreign Secretary William Hague said he was deeply concerned about the escalating violence and death toll, which included a cameraman for Britain's Sky News.

"The UK has been closely involved in intensive diplomatic efforts directed at reaching a peaceful resolution to the standoff," Hague said in a statement. "I am disappointed that compromise has not been possible."

German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle appeared to blame the military-led interim government for the violent turn of events after weeks of tense standoff.

"We expect from the transitional government and the Egyptian authorities that they allow peaceful demonstrations, just as we expect from the other political forces that they distance themselves clearly from violence," Westerwelle said.

But from Jordan, the Muslim Brotherhood urged Egyptian Islamists to press on with their confrontation with the military leadership, declaring the movement in Egypt an inspiration for Muslims seeking power worldwide.

"Today is your day, and upon its outcome, the future of Egypt, Arabs and Muslims will be determined," read a statement from the Jordanian branch of the Brotherhood as 200 of its members protested outside the Egyptian Embassy in Amman, the capital.

Iran, Qatar and Turkey -- all Muslim states where officials cheered the Islamists' rise to power in Egypt -- expressed "deep concern" about the confrontation early Wednesday and warned of its potential to escalate into civil war.

"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," a statement from the Foreign Ministry in Tehran read.

In Turkey, where Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan's government has been the target of massive protests over his perceived imposition of Islamic values on the secular nation, Erdogan's office called the crackdown in Cairo "a serious blow to the hopes of a return to democracy." 

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Twitter: @cjwilliamslat

carol.williams@latimes.com