Egypt's leaders must act now to pull their country "back from the brink," U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said on Saturday, saying Egypt was at a pivotal moment after scores of protesters were killed in the last day.
The top U.S. diplomat said he had spoken to two senior officials of Egypt's interim government - Vice President Mohamed ElBaradei and Foreign Minister Nabil Fahmy - to voice "deep concern about the bloodshed and violence in Cairo and Alexandria over the past 24 hours that has claimed the lives of scores of Egyptian demonstrators and injured more than 1,000 people."
Egyptian security forces shot to death dozens of supporters of ousted Islamist President Mohamed Mursi, witnesses said, days after the army chief called for a popular mandate to wipe out "violence and terrorism".
"This is a pivotal moment for Egypt," Kerry said in a written statement. "The United States ... calls on all of Egypt's leaders across the political spectrum to act immediately to help their country take a step back from the brink."
He also called on the Egyptian security forces to respect Egyptians' right to protest peacefully, saying that was "a moral and legal obligation."
"At this critical juncture, it is essential that the security forces and the interim government respect the right of peaceful protest, including the ongoing sit-in demonstrations," he added.
He also urged an inclusive political process involving representatives of all political parties that would lead as soon as possible to "a freely and fairly elected government committed to pluralism and tolerance."