Egypt's Mursi announces "definitive" severing of relations with Syria

CAIRO (AFP) - Egypt's Islamist President Mohammed Mursi on Saturday announced the "definitive" severing of relations with war-torn Syria, which is suffering from more than two years of civil war.

Egypt "decided today to definitively break off relations with the current regime in Syria, to close that regime's embassy in Cairo and to recall Egypt's charge d'affaires" from Damascus, Mr Mursi told thousands of supporters in a Cairo stadium for a "Support for Syria" rally.

Calling on the international community to impose a "no-fly zone" over Syria, Mr Mursi also said he had made "contact with Arab and Muslim states to organise an emergency support meeting" for the Syrian people.

He denounced the intervention in the conflict of powerful Lebanese Shiite movement Hizbollah, which recently helped government troops to victory over the rebels in the central Syrian town of Qusayr.

A popular uprising that broke out in Syria in March 2011 has gradually turned into a bloody civil war, in which more than 93,000 people have died, according to UN figures.

Syria's conflict has grown increasingly sectarian in nature. On Thursday, influential Sunni clerics from several Arab states, including Egypt, called for jihad, or holy war, against the "sectarian" regime in Syria.

Egypt is Sunni Muslim, as are the vast majority of rebels fighting to overthrow President Bashar al-Assad, who Alawite sect is an offshoot of Shi'ite Islam.

The Egyptian government had long since called for Assad to step down.

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