Baird calls on Egypt government to protect religious sites during violence

OTTAWA – Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird says he’s concerned about attacks on religious institutions as deadly violence continues to flare in Egypt.

But so far, Canada has not imposed any sanctions against the interim government in Cairo following a military crackdown against supporters of ousted Egyptian president Mohammed Morsi.

In a statement, Baird and Andrew Bennett, Canada’s ambassador for religious freedom, call attacks on Christian-based churches in Egypt unconscionable.

And they say Egyptian authorities need to protect worshippers.

The crackdown on Muslim Brotherhood protesters, which began Wednesday, has killed more than 500 people.

In light of the violence, the United States has cancelled joint military exercises with Egypt that were scheduled for next month.

The army took power from Morsi, a top Muslim Brotherhood official who became Egypt’s first democratically elected leader a year ago after the ouster of long-time president Hosni Mubarak.

U.S. President Barack Obama still has not declared the Egyptian military’s recent takeover as a coup.

Such a designation would have forced a cutoff of more than $1 billion in aid the U.S. provides to Egypt annually.