Germany 'very worried' by deadly Cairo clashes
The German government said Monday it was "very worried" by clashes in Egypt that left 24 people dead and urged the country to stem violent sectarian strife as it builds a democracy.
"We can only call on the Egyptian government to get to the bottom of these incidents as soon as possible and bring those responsible to justice," Chancellor Angela Merkel's spokesman Steffen Seibert told a regular briefing.
"We encourage the Egyptian government to do everything in its power to foster an atmosphere of religious tolerance," he said, calling in particular for respect for the rights of the Coptic Christian minority.
Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle added in a separate statement: "I call on all sides to exercise restraint and moderation. Violence and religious conflict must not stop the process of democratisation.
"The road to democracy can only go via religious tolerance," he said.
A demonstration by Coptic Christians in the Egyptian capital degenerated into deadly clashes Sunday that left 24 dead and more than 200 people wounded.
Copts had been holding a protest against a recent attack on a church in the southern city of Aswan when the clashes started.
The widespread unrest threatens to widen the cracks in an already fragile transition from Hosni Mubarak's regime.
Copts make up roughly 10 percent of the country's 80 million people and they complain of state-sanctioned discrimination, including a law that requires presidential permission for church construction.
They have also been the targets of frequent attacks, the deadliest in January when a suicide bomber killed at least 20 people outside an Alexandria church.
© 2011 AFP