CAIRO (AP) — Several hundred supporters of Egypt's deposed president massed outside the Cabinet building Wednesday in Cairo, expanding their protests denouncing the country's new government and demanding the reinstatement of Islamist leader Mohammed Morsi.
The rally came as the European Union's top foreign policy official met with the interim leaders, the second senior Western official to visit Egypt this week.
Carrying posters of Morsi and chanting slogans against the military, the demonstrators called the new leadership illegitimate after the military staged a coup against the country's first democratically elected leader.
Security forces barred them from reaching the Cabinet building, but protesters painted graffiti on the walls calling military chief Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi a killer and traitor.
Islamist protesters have camped out in two areas of Cairo since shortly before Morsi was ousted by the military on July 3. Organizers called for a march Wednesday to the government center a day after interim President Adly Mansour swore in a new 34-member Cabinet.
The new ministers include several prominent figures from liberal and secular factions, as well as three women and three Christians. But there are no representatives of Morsi's Muslim Brotherhood, nor of any other Islamist groups. The Cabinet also includes officials who served under the regime of ousted autocratic leader Hosni Mubarak.
The protest Wednesday caused major traffic congestion in a usually busy part of the city of 18 million people, as well as near Tahrir Square, where Morsi opponents have been camped out since before his ouster.
EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton met with Mansour, el-Sissi and Mohamed ElBaradei, a prominent reform advocate who has been named vice president for international relations. She also is scheduled to meet officials from the Muslim Brotherhood political party.
The international community has been trying to contain the chaos that erupted after Morsi's overthrow and push Egypt back on the road to democratic rule. Morsi was freely elected last year by a narrow majority, but many Egyptians accused him of acting like an authoritarian. Others said he gave undue influence to the Muslim Brotherhood and failed to effectively tackle any of the country's pressing problems, from a free-falling economy to tenuous security and high unemployment.
U.S. Deputy Secretary of State William Burns was in Cairo on Monday to meet with Mansour and el-Sissi. The State Department later said Burns spoke by telephone with a member of the Muslim Brotherhood.
For most of the two years since the overthrow of Mubarak, Egypt has been split into two camps — one led by Morsi, his Muslim Brotherhood and its Islamist allies, and another led by secular Egyptians, liberals, Christians and moderate Muslims.
The fault lines remain after Morsi's departure, except that the Islamists are no longer in power and growing increasingly entrenched as the opposition.
Morsi and his supporters maintain that Islamist rule has been sabotaged by Mubarak loyalists eager to bounce back to power, an opposition that had no genuine interest in reconciliation and a seemingly endless series of strikes, protests and street violence.
Since the coup, Morsi supporters have held several large protests around Cairo, including outside the Republican Guards Club where more than 50 were killed in clashes with the military. Morsi supporters said the military started the violence without reason. The military says some of Morsi supporters tried to break into the club. Three security personnel were also killed in the clashes.
Another rally by Morsi supporters in the heart of Cairo also became violent, leaving seven of his supporters dead after clashes with police and local residents. Morsi supporters planned new rallies in Cairo after sunset Wednesday.
In a statement addressed to the armed forces, Morsi supporters sought to separate el-Sissi and military leaders who carried out the coup from other soldiers in an attempt to draw support to their cause.
"They are sowing the seed of division between the people and the army," the statement said. "Despite the gravity of the crime and the bitter pain, our position regarding our heroic army will not change because of actions from a group of bloody coupist leaders."