The grand imam of Al-Azhar, Sunni Islam’s highest seat of learning, on Wednesday urged Egyptian police not to shoot protesters demanding democratic change in the wake of mounting international condemnation of the situation in Egypt.
Al-Azhar “calls on the police leadership to immediately issue orders not to point their weapons at demonstrators... no matter what the reasons,” Sheikh Ahmed al-Tayyeb said in a recorded address on state television.
Tayyeb also called on protesters to maintain the peaceful nature of the demonstrations and the armed forces to prevent confrontations between the people.
The violence that first broke out on Saturday has left at least 35 people dead, according to the health ministry, while three people were killed on Wednesday, Al Arabiya television reported.
“Al-Azhar also calls on our children in Tahrir Square and all the squares of Egypt to maintain the peaceful nature of their revolution, despite the sacrifices and difficulties they face and to protect all private and public property.”
On Tuesday, the ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) held talks with a number of political forces in a bid to contain the crisis.
A public opinion survey by the University of Maryland found that forty-three percent of Egyptians believe their country's military rulers are working to slow or reverse the gains of the Tahrir Square uprising.
Another 21 percent felt the military authorities were striving to advance those gains, while 14 percent considered them to be indifferent, according to a five-nation snapshot of Arab public opinion by the.
Some 750 Egyptians in Cairo, Alexandria, Giza, Qaliubiya, Al Minia (Upper Egypt) and Al Ismailiyah (Suez Canal) took part in the October 22-30 poll, with a margin of error of 3.7 percent.
But clashes between security forces and protesters continued for a fifth day in Cairo and Egypt’s second-largest city Alexandria, demanding an end to military rule.
Meanwhile, the Vatican’s envoy to Cairo on Wednesday insisted that Egypt's political forces must “do everything possible” to ensure upcoming elections proceed smoothly and in a “less tense” climate, AFP reported.
“Without a democratic vote, the voice of the people will not be heard,” the apostolic nuncio to Cairo, Michael Fitzgerald, was quoted as saying by the Catholic missionary news agency MISNA.
“It is critical that all the various forces at play, from the military to the protesters to the parties and opposition movements, do everything possible to ensure elections proceed smoothly,” he said.
The first parliamentary elections since the fall of president Hosni Mubarak are set to begin on November 28, although the unrest has led to doubts over whether they will and should go ahead.